By LOIS KINDLE
Sun City Center is known for its many services that assist the community’s senior residents. Perhaps two of its most beneficent are transportation services provided by Samaritan Services for folks who can no longer drive or can’t safely operate a vehicle.
The first is Samaritan Services’ SCC Ride, which offers in-town transportation for residents of Sun City Center and Kings Point to medical appointments, the bank, beauty salon, grocery store, restaurant — even a friend’s house — for free.
“We have two cars circulating throughout the day (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., excluding most holidays), so we’re generally able to meet the community’s needs,” said Samaritan Services board member Charlie Kramer. “Our service boundaries are U.S. 301 and Kings Crossing Shopping Center to the east, and the Southshore Regional Service Center and Suncoast Community Health Center to the west.”
Rides are provided on a first come, first serve basis. Appointments are not taken. Clients must be ambulatory, and they must call the dispatcher 60 to 90 minutes ahead of the time they need to arrive at their appointments or destinations.
“We make every effort to get riders to their appointments on time, but there is no guarantee,” said Lee Leverett, Samaritan Services president. “That’s why we need clients to call ahead.”
Riders are dropped off, and when they’re ready to be picked up, they must call and wait for a driver to come to take them home. If possible, the same driver is utilized for both trips.
Only service animals are allowed in the cars.
“We’re not a taxi service,” Leverett said. “We don’t take people to buy a pack of cigarettes or pay a bill. We also don’t take residents to the emergency room. That’s the responsibility of the county or Sun City Center Emergency Squad.”
Wheelchair-bound residents are served by the squad.
Out-of-town service is also available
Rides are provided for medical appointments only outside of Sun City Center through Samaritan Services. Currently there are six vehicles reserved for this service, which transports riders to places like Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa General Hospital, Florida Orthopedic offices, the VA Hospital or Lighthouse for the Blind in Tampa and the VA clinic in Bradenton.
“We will take clients anywhere in Hillsborough County, except Plant City,” said Kramer, a volunteer driver. “It can be for any medical appointment or medically related service, including dental.”
Once again, the all-volunteer service is free, but actual appointments must be made at least two weeks in advance.
“That’s because a car must be scheduled for the whole day,” Leverett said, “and the driver must be available when the appointment is over. Volunteers have to be scheduled for the date and time reserved.”
Last-minute cancellations have become a problem, Kramer said. Last year alone, they occurred 184 times.
“Some are due to illness or the doctor changes the appointment,” he said. “Those are out of anyone’s control.
“But many are caused because people decide at the last minute to ride with a friend or relative, which means the car and driver sit idle when they could have served others in need.”
Just be considerate, Leverett said.
“If you really need us, call us. If you have alternate means, we need the cars for others. We want to serve as many people as possible.”
Funding for Samaritan Services transportation comes totally from individual, club and organizational donations, estate gifts and the nonprofit’s annual appeal.
For more information or to donate or volunteer, call Samaritan Services at 813-634-9283 or stop by 1207 Pebble Beach Blvd. N.
For in-town rides, call 813-633-6111.
For rides to out-of-town medical appointments, call 813-634-9283.