By PHYLLIS HODGES
After suspension of transportation services since mid-March, area residents will be pleased to hear the Samaritan Services fleet is gearing up to begin rolling again June 30. Julie Floyd, Samaritan Services president, said the board of directors made the decision June 18 to resume services and will be monitoring operations closely, with the intention of reassessing conditions at its July 18 board meeting.
Floyd and the board members are excited about two cars they were able to replace in the six-car fleet; After reaching 75,000 miles, those cares were due to be cycled out. Two Community Foundation of Tampa Bay grants totaling $27,325 enabled them to buy the first vehicle and partially pay for the second. They were also able to purchase six new phones for drivers to use if they do not have texting and GPS capabilities on theirs.
Floyd said, due to a shortage of drivers, it will be offering limited service for trips both locally and out of town. SCC Ride (813-633-6111), the service that provides local transportation on a “first come—first served” basis, will resume its normal schedule (weekdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), but clients will be transported only to medical and bank appointments, pharmacies and the four community groceries (Publix, Aldi, Winn-Dixie and Save-a-Lot). The out-of-town service (813-634-9283) is only for medical appointments, and trip requests must still be scheduled 10 to 14 days in advance.
Repeat riders will see some changes in both transportation services. Among new COVID-19 precautions are required masks for both drivers and passengers, pre-trip temperature checks, health queries and signed waivers. Also, passengers must have phone texting capability to communicate with drivers since drivers will stay with the car during the appointment.
Meals on Wheels, which Samaritan Services coordinates with South Bay Hospital and the SCC Woman’s Club, never stopped. The hospital prepares the meals, and club volunteers deliver them. The meal pick-up procedure has changed somewhat, however. Delivery volunteers no longer enter the hospital; the meals are brought out to them.
Floyd said that she and the directors are anxious to resume service, even on a limited basis. They are excited about the two new vehicles and praised Vice President John Mayoka who was invaluable in selecting the 2020 Subaru Foresters, based on reliability and ease of entering and exiting the back seat. Floyd attributed the group’s success in acquiring the funding to Debbie Caneen, a member of the foundation’s South Shore Council, who encouraged her to apply.
In addition to the transportation services and Meals on Wheels, an Alzheimer’s Respite Care is coordinated from the Samaritan Services building at 1207 N. Pebble Beach Drive in Sun City Center. There are 140 volunteers on the roster of drivers, volunteers, receptionists, dispatchers, officers and directors. Last year, volunteers provided 7,731 rides in town and 985 rides out of town.
As a 501(c)3 charity, Samaritan Services operates on community financial support. The office is not accepting walk-in visitors. To schedule appointments, learn more about the service and to inquire about volunteer opportunities, call 813-634-9283.