Wheels of Greater New Milford still going strong
The name has changed slightly but the service remains the same.
Wheels of Greater New Milford is an all-volunteer organization that provides rides to doctors appointments for senior citizens and disabled residents.
Originally known as just Wheels, the program was under the auspices of the American Red Cross for decades.
In April, it was taken over by the non-profit New Milford Senior Citizens Advisory Board.
"At this point, we're a new organization struggling with finances but the operational side of the program is intact," said Bert Goff, who, with his wife, Vivian, are the "informal coordinators."
Twenty volunteers, some drivers and some who staff the phones, are keeping the program alive -- many of them had volunteered with the Red Cross.
"It's rewarding to help people unable to drive themselves," said Mr. Goff, who began volunteering as a driver three years ago.
"What sensitized me to the need was when my mother stopped driving," he said. "In some sense, I continue doing this in memory of my mother."
Wheels has an active client list of some 100 repeat users, with a two-year record of serving more than 300.
It provides rides locally and beyond to doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, Veterans Affairs facilities and other medical offices.
Senior Maxine Hayes counts on the program for rides to her doctors in Danbury.
"It's important for me to have this in New Milford because the senior bus will only drive you around town," Mrs. Hayes said. "If I have to go to Danbury or even to New Haven, they'll take me."
Bill Lowenthal said Wheels was a key factor in their decision on relocating when he and his wife were moving from North Carolina.
"I've been using the program for four years," Mr. Lowenthal said. "What sold us on New Milford was having the senior bus for getting around town and Wheels to get to doctors' appointments in Danbury. This program is a blessing."
While community spirit is still strong among the volunteers, fundraising has been slow.
"The fundraising side is the huge change," Mr. Goff noted. "The Red Cross had development people who specialized in fundraising. The advisory board members are still developing their fundraising skills."
Costs of maintaining insurance, vehicle maintenance and gas for the program are high, he added.
Wheels of Greater New Milford answers phones Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to midnight. For more information, to schedule a ride, or to make a donation, call 860-354-6012.