For most seniors, the thought of losing their ability to drive is heartbreaking, an experience none want but many must eventually face. It once created lots of shut-ins in this community but a free, alternative form of transport provided by Samaritan Services has changed that.
Called SCC Ride, the volunteer-run, free service offers Sun City Center and Kings Point residents who can't or shouldn't drive a means of getting where they want or need to go within Sun City Center - or to the Sun Point Shopping Center in Ruskin, where the tax collector's office - and regional service center behind it - are located.
"They can go to the doctor, grocery store, beauty salon, even a friend's house, as long as it's within the community," said Doris Ragland, SCC Ride founder and president of Samaritan Services. "However we're not a taxi service. We're here for people who have a genuine need, those who can't drive, have impaired sight or a physical disability but are ambulatory."
Wheelchair-bound residents are served by the SCC Emergency Squad, she said.
Ragland, 92, started SCC Ride eight years ago when former Sun City Center Security Patrol Chief Eldon Green had the idea for the service but couldn't implement it.
"It was definitely needed, and there was no one else to do it," she said.
The service, which has two cars, operates Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is closed on the weekend and most holidays. It does take reservations; riders are picked up on a first-come, first-served basis. They also are picked up and taken home.
Every effort is made to get them to their appointments on time but there is no guarantee, so residents are encouraged to call at least an hour ahead of any appointment to help with the process.
Currently SCC Ride has 50 volunteer drivers.
"We provide people who can no longer drive a great measure of mobility and continued independence," said Maryann Volk, a member of the XI Xi Omicron chapter of Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. The organization adopted SCC Ride as a service project and all 10 members are SCC Ride drivers. Each drives a half day at a time, four to five times a year.
"We're paying forward," she continued. "Who knows? If we're lucky enough to be around long enough, we may some day need the service ourselves."
SCC Ride provides 30 to 40 rides per weekday, Ragland said. In June alone the total was 553. Year-to-date, it's 3,659.
Funding comes totally from individual donations, community fundraisers and grants from the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center.
For additional information or to become a volunteer, call Samaritan Services at (813) 634-9283 or stop by 916 Pebble Beach Blvd. N.
To schedule a ride, call (813) 633-6111.