With new board members, Rides for Ridgefield aims to reach more residents needing transportation

Photo of Alyssa Seidman
Betty Kloth, left, Nancy Brandon, David Smith, chairman, and Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, vice chair, of Rides for Ridgefield. Friday, Jan. 28.

Betty Kloth, left, Nancy Brandon, David Smith, chairman, and Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, vice chair, of Rides for Ridgefield. Friday, Jan. 28.

TBA / Hearst Connecticut Media

RIDGEFIELD — A new slate of leaders promises to improve an organization in town that supports older residents and others in need of transportation.

Last June, Rides for Ridgefield resumed services after more than a year of being off the road. In March 2020, the town requested it temporarily suspend services to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

When Hearst Connecticut Media last spoke with executive committee member David Smith, he said Rides was looking for new people to “step up and take leadership” within the organization. Since then five people have joined as board members.

Smith now serves as the group’s chairman alongside Kathy Goetz, its new vice chair. Rounding out the board are Bill Swaney, Debra Franceschini-Gatje, Lorraine Duffy and Natasha Olechowski.

“It was so impressive to me to see the original founders still around, but we have the opportunity now (for) the next generation of board members step in and try to sustain it,” Goetz said. “We really want to be able to get back to doing more, but we still have a big need for volunteers.”

Since 2014, the group has conducted more than 6,000 trips and driven 70,000 miles with the help of 40 volunteers chauffeuring hundreds of riders, according to founder Margaret Thompson. It was established to help older adults and individuals with mobility restrictions get around after Thompson said government-supported and privately-run transportation services were not meeting their needs.

In 2021, the group took 432 calls, completed 292 trips and drove 3,160 miles — primarily to medical appointments — Goetz said. In an earlier interview, call center manager Nancy Brandon said almost 60 percent of the rides it fulfilled pre-pandemic were related to medical appointments.

In order to accompany non-medical rides to church, the grocery store, Founders Hall or other activities, the group needs more volunteers, Goetz said.

“We want to get to a point where we have a sufficient scale to be able to provide non-medical rides,” she added. “The challenge with this age group is meeting people where they are.”

Swaney oversees a new subcommittee that will evaluate Rides’ processes, technologies and software to determine if improvements can be made to increase efficiencies.

“Not all of our riders use email, for instance,” Smith said, “so we have to be flexible (in) how we (reach) them.”

“We want to make sure what we’re providing is user-friendly,” Goetz added.

Rides recently assisted the town in distributing at-home COVID test kits to high-priority riders and drivers. Goetz handled some of the deliveries personally.

“It was really appreciated by the folks … knowing we were looking out for them,” she said. “Being able to have more social … interaction is really healthy, especially during the pandemic.

“It’s been fun to get involved,” she added.

To request a ride or inquire about volunteering, call 203-894-7433.