Programs aid rural areas

By Kate Szyszka

As the price of gas has gotten higher, more people have turned to alternative means of transportation.

In Champaign-Urbana, some areas on the public transportation grid remain unaccounted for, leaving some citizens with even fewer options.

However, two local groups, aided by a recent donation from Carle Foundation Hospital, have made it their goal to improve senior citizens’ mobility and community involvement.

The grant from Carle came on July 1 and was given to Rural Riders – a program in the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission – and to the Senior Resource Center Family Service. The Rural Riders program picks up citizens age 60 and older via bus from their homes outside Champaign County city limits, which are not normally included on MTD bus routes.

“We provide curb-to curb service,” said Victoria Christensen, program manager for Rural Riders.

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    Rural Riders drives patrons to medical appointments, the grocery store, the bank, social events and to volunteer. They have not yet decided how to use the grant from Carle.

    “I think we are looking for the best way to use it, and we are thankful for the grant,” said Christensen.

    The other program that received a grant, the Senior Resources Center Family Service, provides car service for residents within Champaign County age 60 and older. They take citizens to similar locations as the Rural Riders program.

    This service previously offered the chance for senior citizens to take one free ride per week from volunteers and a cab ride partly paid for by the program. However, since receiving the donation from Carle, the program has been able to offer two rides per week.

    “We’re really hoping to improve the quality of life of seniors who can’t drive or take the bus,” said Rosanna McLain, director of the Senior Resource Center.

    The rising cost of gas has caused problems for programs of this nature.

    “As gas prices go up, the cost of a cab ride also goes up,” said McLain. “We can provide fewer rides to the senior citizens.”