The expression “taking a joyride” has a new meaning for an organization that provides transportation for seniors in the Dubuque area.
DuRide has been getting people age 65 and older from point A to point B around Dubuque, East Dubuque, Ill., and Asbury, Iowa, since 2008. And on Tuesday, organization volunteers offered their 100,000th ride.
DuRide volunteer driver Dave Hanley and DuRide member Esther Martin, both of Dubuque, were greeted with flowers, balloons and a congratulatory sign at the Medical Associates Clinic East on Tuesday morning to mark the milestone.
Martin said she was “a little surprised” by the fanfare and was unaware that she was the 100,000th rider.
“I did not know about that until I got into the car with Dave this morning,” she said. “Just to get there and see them all (standing there), I did feel a bit surprised by that.”
The organization’s founder, Sue Balsamo, of Dubuque, said that when she started the group, she never imagined it would reach such a milestone.
“I never even thought about (reaching 100,000 riders),” she said. “It’s incredible. Apparently there is a need and we’re filling that need.”
DuRide serves 291 members and averages more than 1,000 rides per month, with service provided 365 days a year by 176 volunteers.
“I think it makes it easy for riders,” Balsamo said. “There’s not a lot of complications to it or anything.”
Hanley has been volunteering with the organization for just longer than one year now. He said flexibility in the scheduling has been very helpful, especially since he volunteers elsewhere in the community.
“You can set your own schedule, which was appealing to me,” he said. “They usually call you a day or two before and ask you what hours you can work. ... The members are all very nice and they are so very grateful for the help. It’s very gratifying and a small commitment for a great volunteer opportunity.”
Volunteers use their own vehicles to provide one-way and round-trip rides. They have donated about 42,000 hours and traveled 550,000 miles since the program began.
DuRide Executive Director Greg Orwoll said the annual growth has been “steady and organic,” citing the rise in the senior population nationwide.
“As 10,000 people a day turn 65, the fact that we can allow people to stay in their homes and stay independent is so important for many people,” he said. “We have so many members who say, ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you,’ because they now have the ability to still live independently and to take care of themselves. When they say that, it really tells us that we’re on the right track.”