Safe at Home

Pry my car keys from my cold, dead hand

By JIM CURTIS

Jim.Curtis1210@yahoo.com

“I’ll give up my freedom when you pry my car keys from my dead, cold hand,” seems to be the mantra repeated universally by elders-in-need.

Mo, the 89-year-old I found lying on the pavement last year, is a classic example. Parkinson disease robbed the strength in his legs and dementia clouded his mind, but nothing dampens his relentless will to get behind the wheel and experience the freedom of the open road, even though his tags and insurance expired along with his ability to operate a motor vehicle, including his scooter and golf cart.

Sometimes I think Diana Shore’s jingle “see the USA in your Chevrolet” plays through Mo’s mind on auto rewind.

“Make sure you renew my car insurance,” he told me last week — just like he told me the week before and every week for as long as I can remember.

Granted, the need to get from point A to point B is critical to elders-in-need. But help is only a phone call away thanks to Sun City Center Ride, a group of 200 volunteers who transported Sun City Center residents 99,000 miles in 2015 to doctors, shops and social activities.

SCC Ride is like having a chauffeured car service. Pick up the phone and a car with driver arrives right on time. “We have a free Uber and Lyft,” said Lee Leverett, a retired elementary school principal and president of Samaritan Services, the nonprofit that operates SCC Ride along with several other services for local residents, including coordination of deliveries for Meals On Wheels.

“It seems like many of our volunteers worked in public services. They seem to have a heart for it. They have such a spirit of giving that it makes my job rewarding,” Leverett said, pausing from her duties at the Samaritan Services office on North Pebble Beach.

She has been a Samaritan Services volunteer since 2002 when she and her husband moved to Sun City Center. Along with a paid manager, she oversees the volunteers that include drivers, 10 receptionists, 30 dispatchers and a fleet of eight cars that provided 8,328 rides in 2015.

SCC Ride’s service area is from U.S. 301 to about a mile west of I-75. Samaritan Services also transports to Brandon and Tampa for medical appointments only. But the bulk of the travel — 7,406 rides in 2016 — was along S.R. 674 and its side roads.

Funding is from individuals and clubs, with no contributions from the Sun City Center Community Association or the Kings Point Homeowners Federation. The annual budget is just short of $200,000, meaning SCC Ride essentially operated a taxi service for an incredibility low $2 per mile in 2015.

It operates Monday through  Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a first come-first served basis. Drivers cannot leave the car unattended, so assistance to and from the vehicle must be provided by a companion. Service for local rides can be arranged by calling 813-633-6111. For out of town rides, call 813-634-9283.

I used the service with Mo several times. I call SCC Ride the day Mo needs transport and a courteous driver shows up on time in a new, clean car or van. A second call triggers the return home with little or no delay. Lifestyles of the rich and famous.

I find SCC Ride impressive, better than a commercial service, and inspiring because it shows what can be accomplished when people volunteer to serve others. Mo…well, not so much.

After returning from a doctor’s visit, Mo thanked the driver for a ride. In the parking lot he looked long and lovingly at his big, black Buick. Once inside his home, even before his caregiver transferred him to his recliner, he asked, “Where are my car keys?”

“In the top drawer of your dresser where you can’t reach them.”

“When are you going to get my scooter fixed?”

Jim Curtis is the owner of Home Haven. He is certified by the state of Florida to provide homemaker and companion services and focuses on keeping elders-in-need in their homes. Call him at 813-331-3471, or e-mail Jim.Curtis1210@yahoo.com.

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