With the Tennessee Department of Health reminding adults 70 and older that they are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, one local non-profit group is trying to make it easier for seniors to get the protection they need.
Community Life Ride, an initiative that provides affordable transportation to senior citizens who live in Hendersonville and Gallatin, is now offering free rides for those scheduled to receive the vaccine at Volunteer State Community College, according to Community Life Ride Program Manager Christine Martin.
Community Life Ride launched in July of 2019 as the first initiative of Community Life Bridge, a non-profit organization focused on creating affordable programs for Sumner County’s senior population.
Begun in Hendersonville, the affordable ride program expanded to Gallatin in January of 2020.
“Our goal is to expand enough to cover the whole county,” said Martin. “But since we utilize volunteer drivers, our program will grow as the number of volunteers increases.”
In 2020, the program provided 311 trips for 25 riders who utilized the program.
Hendersonville resident Linda Gordon is one of 28 of Community Life Ride’s volunteer drivers.
“It’s super rewarding,” said Gordon. “Most of the seniors we see don’t have family who are able to take them to doctor appointments and places. To me it’s more of an opportunity to create some friendships with people.”
Drivers are taking special safety precautions during COVID-19 to protect their passengers, Gordon noted.
Passengers are asked to ride in the back seat on the passenger side. Both drivers and passengers wear protective face masks, and each driver sanitizes the back seat area before and after each ride.
Riders must be 60 years or older and live in Gallatin or Hendersonville to sign up for the program. They typically pay a $25 annual membership and $6 per ride.
However, the organization’s Board of Directors recently voted to waive the fees for those who want to get vaccinated, Martin said.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines currently require two doses.
“So they get two rides for free,” she added.
Participants must have an appointment at Volunteer State Community College where the local health department is administering the vaccine on a drive-thru basis.
“We want our community to be healthy,” said Martin. “So our board approved for us to be able to provide this service for free.”
Tennessee’s COVID-19 vaccination plan prioritizes those at highest risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. Currently those who are 70 and older may register with the Sumner County Health Department for an appointment to receive the vaccine.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there are an estimated 300,000 Tennesseans in the 70-74 age group and about one in three have been vaccinated to date. People in this age group have a 70 percent higher rate of death and a 40 percent higher rate of hospitalization from COVID-19 compared to those who are 65 to 69 years of age, according to the state health department.
To find information on the phases eligible for vaccination in Sumner County and to register for vaccination, go to the Tennessee Department of Health’s website at https://covid19.tn.gov/covid-19-vaccines/county-vaccine-information/.
To learn more about Community Life Ride or to schedule a ride, call Martin at 615-431-2660.