When Carolyn Navratil had heart surgery in January, she was told she wouldn't be able to drive for three weeks. Yet the hospital in Fargo scheduled her for another appointment just two weeks later, which left Navratil in a bit of a predicament.
"I didn't have anybody who could afford to take a whole day off work (to drive me to the hospital)," she said. "I didn't know what to do."
Then Navratil remembered a program she had heard of called Ready Ride, which matches volunteer drivers with senior citizens needing a ride in Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties.
The program from West Central Minnesota Communities Action works in partnership funded by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Though rides to medical appointments are a common need, social obligations or other errands are also part of the program.
Through Ready Ride, Navratil's ride to Fargo was organized and she was contacted by volunteer driver Georgia Nelson.
"They coordinated it and I got a call back in a couple days telling me what it would cost and how it would work and giving me the name of the driver," Navratil said. "She called me and introduced herself and got directions to pick me up."
Nelson says her experience being a volunteer for the program has been positive.
"Before getting involved with Ready Ride, I was thinking I should be doing more community service but didn't want to be tied down to a schedule," Nelson said. "This was the perfect thing because I can kind of work it around whatever else is happening. They call and if you can do it, you can do it. And if you're busy, you say, 'Sorry, I can't.'"
According to Navratil, Nelson was a stellar driver, as she was on time and made sure all Navratil's needs were met.
"(After picking me up from the hospital) she asked if there was anything she could do, and I said, 'Well, I do need a prescription they wrote for me at Target,'" Navratil recalled. "She stopped and we went in and got it. She went above and beyond."
Ready Ride has about 35 volunteers, with some only available for nearby trips, while others are willing to drive to the Twin Cities or Fargo-Moorhead.
"We prefer a 48-hour advance notice," said Nicole Melaaf, volunteer coordinator. "For a long distance, the more notice the better."
Ready Ride drivers are reimbursed for their mileage at the rate set by the IRS, currently 53.5 cents per mile, or they can donate that money back to the program
"We have a pretty good base of volunteers, but we need to get the word out to riders," Melaaf said.
To schedule a ride, call (218) 685-7433 (RIDE).