Driving our villages, one ride at a time

‘In 2018 our big goal is to help people in Chester Gap or Sperryville . . . ’

Special to the Rappahannock News

In 2017, volunteer drivers coordinated by VolTran, a small nonprofit organization based in Warrenton, put in nearly 1,100 hours and logged nearly 17,000 miles helping local residents without their own transportation get to medical offices, pharmacies, grocery stores, and other critical locations.

The VolTran drivers used their own vehicles and paid for their own gas to make 470 round trips during 2017, picking up passengers at their homes, helping them get to appointments and run errands, and bringing them home afterwards.

That averages out to nearly 40 trips, 100 volunteer hours donated and 1,500 miles driven each month of the year. In October, one of the organization’s busiest months, 10 VolTran volunteers put in 138 hours, made 54 trips, and traveled 2,400 miles.

“We did a great job in 2017, I think, reaching out to new clients and finding new volunteers willing to drive them where they needed to go,” says Larry Stillwell, VolTran’s volunteer and outreach coordinator. “In 2018 our big goal is recruiting new volunteers willing to help even more people — people in Chester Gap or Sperryville, people in Catlett, people in Marshall or The Plains, people in Elkwood and Rixeyville.”

Serving more VolTran clients, local residents who are often elderly or disabled and who need to get to the doctor or the pharmacy or the store, depends on finding new volunteer drivers, Stillwell says. He’s contacting churches and civic organizations, among others, to spread word of this volunteer opportunity and the good drivers can do.

VolTran saw its monthly ride volume approximately double during 2017. The number of volunteer drivers active each month grew from three or four a month in 2016 to a dozen or more in 2017.

VolTran has 20 drivers on its roster, though not every driver is active each month. Volunteer drivers drive their own vehicles and pay for their own gas.

VolTran is a 501C3 nonprofit managed by a board of directors consisting of local residents. The program began in 2008 but had shrunk considerably until a concerted effort to revitalize the program began in 2016. Financial support comes from the PATH Foundation, Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, and local donors.

Thanks to VolTran’s recent partnership with the Foothills Area Mobility System’s One-Call Center, monthly ride requests have doubled or even tripled compared to 2016. Calls to VolTran are answered at the One-Call Center, which is based in Culpeper and which helps people in five counties find the transportation services they need.

VolTran also expanded geographically beyond its Fauquier origins in 2017, incorporating volunteers and passengers from Rappahannock County and beginning to serve northern Culpeper County as well. Most VolTran destinations have continued to be within or near Fauquier County but when volunteers are available and willing, they have also taken clients to Charlottesville, Manassas, Fairfax, and Front Royal.

VolTran was founded to serve elderly and disabled residents of Fauquier County. It now serves anyone living in Rappahannock or northern Culpeper counties who has a critical transportation need. Drivers are not always available, however, and some ride requests made to the Call Center go unfulfilled.

To fill that gap, VolTran is currently undertaking an outreach effort to add both volunteers and passengers from the underserved parts of its service area, including Rappahannock and Culpeper counties.

The need is out there, Stillwell says. VolTran gets a fair number of requests it cannot help with; new drivers living in new areas would help with that. “And at the same time, many people don’t even know about us or the One Call Center, so we’re asking everyone’s help in getting the word out there. Tell people who need a ride, or who want to drive others, to call VolTran.”

“Our drivers love what they do,” he said. “They feel good about helping with something as basic and important as transportation. And they love the people they meet and help — and of course the passengers are so grateful. It’s a win-win. That’s the great idea VolTran is based on.”

The VolTran phone number is 540-422-8424. For more information, see the VolTran website at voltran.org.

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