Connections to Care-Saving Lives, One Ride at a Time

  • Connections to Care Volunteer, Joe Ruane, drives client to doctor visit on 11/1/21 from Arlington Heights Senior Center.

    Connections to Care Volunteer, Joe Ruane, drives client to doctor visit on 11/1/21 from Arlington Heights Senior Center. Courtesy of Amy Gall

 
 
Updated 11/10/2022 10:32 AM

As the village of Arlington Heights weighs the costs and benefits of a Bears stadium, about two miles south, a less-told - but just as important - story is unfolding. Located within the Senior Center in Arlington Heights, a small nonprofit organization, Connections to Care, is exploring ways to shoulder the growing need among seniors who are unable to get to critical medical appointments and health checkups.

Connections to Care provides transportation to adults 60 years and older across 14 suburbs - a substantial undertaking for an organization that relies on qualified, volunteer drivers and local fundraising.

 

"We are thankful for our 106 volunteer drivers but need more to keep up with the number of requests we get," says Executive Director Charlene Padovani. &"Now that the threat of COVID is waning, more folks are catching up on scheduling doctor and dental appointments they may have postponed over the past few years."

Indeed, when Connections to Care was started in 2006, its goal was to provide 20 rides each month. Since then, the group has provided nearly 35,000 rides, regularly crossing township boundaries to ensure seniors can get to medical appointments across the broader northwest suburban area. Connections to Care covers 14 municipalities, four townships, five major medical facilities (NCH Hospital, Advocate/Lutheran General, NorthShore/Glenbrook, Alexian Brothers and St. Alexius) and countless independent physician and dental offices. But its ability to help seniors depends on qualified, volunteer drivers and donations.

Census data suggests the number of seniors 85 years and older will triple by 2040. Without enough drivers, passengers may increasingly be turned away, with little options to fall back on beyond township transportation and private services.

Volunteers Choose Their Schedule

Volunteering for Connections to Care is flexible. Drivers can choose their schedule and how often they provide rides, which are easily scheduled online. Rides generally are scheduled Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., with an occasional Saturday. No heavy lifting is involved. Passengers must be able to get in and out of a car unassisted. Although drivers must wait for their passengers while they complete their medical appointments, they may do so in the waiting room, at a nearby Starbucks or café, or in their car.

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All drivers must be at least 21 years of age, hold a valid Illinois driver's license, carry liability auto insurance and be fully vaccinated. Connections to Care carries additional liability insurance on all drivers. Potential volunteers may obtain an application online at www.connectionstocare.org.

"The average age of our clients is 85," says Padovani. "They tend to live on fixed incomes, often are unable to use other forms of transportation and require assistance with vision, hearing, or memory loss, which make it difficult to negotiate the distances and complexities of hospitals and medical facilities. We request a $15 donation per ride, however the real cost of delivering the service is far greater."

Providing seniors with rides is not just about ensuring transportation to vital medical and dental appointments, she adds. Drivers help ensure the dignity of their passengers, as well as provide company, conversation, and compassion. Connections to Care. More than a Ride. A Connection.

For more information, visit www.connectionstocare.org or call (847) 222-9227.

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