Free Wheelin’ is again offering rides

Free Wheelin’, The Valley’s free transportation service, has reopened after being closed due to COVID-19 since mid-March.

Spokesperson Michael Bransfield said the service is again operational but requests for rides are lower than pre-COVID.

“I think people are still hesitating about going out,” he said.

To operate safely, Free Wheelin’ had a plexiglass divider made by Able Glass that was installed between the front and back seats. Passengers sit in the back.

“We have hand sanitizer, masks and gloves. Drivers wear masks. We also have a no-touch thermometer, and we check people’s temperatures before they get in the car. We sanitize it after each ride.

Bransfield said that before COVID Free Wheeling was averaging about 150 rides a month and said that about 35 had been booked and executed in June so far. Free Wheelin’ relies on a paid driver and volunteer drivers.

Free Wheelin’ offers seniors and others the ability to call and arrange rides to lunch as well as shopping, doctors’ offices and hospital visits. The car and homegrown transportation service (including a part-time driver) are part of a pilot program that is taking place through the cooperative efforts of the Mad River Valley Senior Citizens, the Mad River Valley Community Fund and the Mad River Valley Interfaith Council. The three organizations will contribute $15,000 each for two years to fund the pilot project.

Those seeking a ride can call 802-249-3427. People are asked to call 48 hours in advance and transportation will be available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The Free Wheelin’ program will take people to and from the senior aggregate lunches, to and from the Mad River Valley Food Shelf, shopping, to and from the medical center or Central Vermont Medical Center or Dartmouth and other doctors’ visits.