Local nonprofit gives free rides for disabled and disadvantaged

Project CAR has provides free rides to medical appointments, places of employment, and religious activities for people unable to transport themselves.
Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 8:53 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Times have gotten even tougher for those in Sioux Falls who do not own their own vehicle and have nobody to transport them.

Twice in the last seven months, Sioux Area Metro has shrunk its route schedule due to driver shortages.

But there is a service on weekdays and Sunday mornings for those who are physically, visually, or financially impaired, and it’s free.

Project CAR is a nonprofit “system of transit for seniors, persons with developmental disorders or medical conditions – any adult whose ability to transport themselves,” according to its website.

Karin Lindell has been a client for a decade.

”I’ve had vision issues, which have never let me be able to drive, (and I live) in a household where nobody drives,” Lindell said. “So, this is really a wonderful way for me to get to work.”

That work is as a volunteer in the office at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, one of the seven churches and 15 total member organizations Project CAR partners with for rides. Anyone who worships, works, or partakes in activities at those churches and qualifies for the service can get a ride to them anytime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, and Sundays from 8 a.m. to Noon.

The other six churches that are member partners in Project CAR are Asbury United Methodist Church, Faith Lutheran Church, First Congregational Church, First Lutheran Church, First United Methodist Church, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Peace Lutheran Church, St. John American Lutheran Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

The service started in 1980 to give rides to senior citizens going to church services and activities, but now over 50 percent of its rides are to medical appointments — doctor appointments, dentist appointments, eye exams, physical therapy, and chemotherapy. Both Sanford and Avera Health systems are partners in the system.

Project CAR also gives rides for the developmentally disabled to their jobs, partnering with Lifescape and Dakotabilities.

With five cars, Project CAR gives about 40 rides a day 10,000 transports a year. It is funded by donations and fundraising events.

The drivers are all volunteers, like Tom Roust, a retired actuary, who has been with Project CAR since 2008.

”Just being service to people is what I get out of it,” Roust said while driving to pick up Lindell on Wednesday. “Nearly everybody is grateful for what we do.”

Many riders are long-time regulars who request the same drivers over and over, Montgomery said.

”That distinguishes us quite a bit from a taxi service or an Uber,” Montgomery said. “We’re not just about providing the rides, but enhancing the riders’ well-being through building relationships.”

Lindell has a couple of regular drivers.

”I really like talking to them and finding out about them and how interested and generous they are in consideration of me,” Lindell said. “You know, we have good conversations.”

Lindell is also a tutor at Augustana, which is within walking distance of her house. One of her past students was a Lifescape resident who also utilized Project CAR.

“I could walk over to our appointments and I would see her get into her car with her drivers,” Lindell said. “They were always so good to her. So, I think this is a really needed service.”

In other words, Project CAR has become a community of people helping those who need help the most, for things they need the most help. It is a service Montgomery — who worked in ministry for much of his adult life and has been the sole day-to-day employee and traffic director over the last two years — finds beyond fulfilling.

”This is absolutely fantastic,” Montgomery said. “People call in. They need help. We can give them help. It sounds so simple, but at the end of the day, I leave work, and I know that we’ve helped people to get where they have to be.”

Some other things to know about Project CAR services:

* To qualify to be a Project CAR rider, you must be able to get into and out of a car on your own. The service is not wheelchair accessible. QUALIFY TO BE A PROJECT CAR RIDER, YOU MUST BE ABLE TO GET INTO AND OUT OF A CAR ON YOUR OWN.

* The service does not provide rides to stores or for personal errands

* Rides are only to and from the riders’ scheduled appointments or activities. You must set up your appointments with both where you are going and with Project CAR in advance.

* Project CAR does not provide rides to dialysis or any procedure requiring general anesthesia. These rides are open to the public with a referral from a healthcare provider by calling our office or emailing pc@projectcarsf.org.

* Volunteer drivers are needed! Montgomery said he could use eight more right now. Email to the address above of call the service at (605) 332-2777.

* For more information, explore the website: https://projectcarsf.org/ride/

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