Who you gonna call if you need a ride?
If you live in eastern Carver County, or western Hennepin County, you can contact WeCAB, a local nonprofit founded in 2011 to provide safe, affordable and flexible supplemental transportation to those who are without.
The service is offered to anyone, of any age, needing a ride to and from medical appointments, volunteer work, grocery shopping, the pharmacy, the library, even the hair salon.
WeCAB relies on a cadre of volunteer drivers, dispatchers and registrars.
On Oct. 9, WeCAB hosted its annual volunteer and benefactor dinner, sponsored by Presbyterian Homes/Lake Minnetonka Shores. Highlighting the dinner was the presentation of the inaugural Inspirational Leadership Award to Ridgeview Medical Center, based in Waconia. Accepting on behalf of Ridgeview was CEO Michael Phelps.
“Ridgeview is honored to receive this award from WeCAB and — more important — proud to support this important community program since its 2011 beginnings,” Phelps said. “Transportation can be a barrier for many people, and we are pleased to partner with WeCAB and its network of volunteer supporters to help area residents access the services they need — including medical care at Ridgeview and other organizations.”
“We recognize Ridgeview as a driving collaborative partner that has allowed WeCAB to flourish and grow,” said Katie Boller Gosewisch, WeCAB executive director. “WeCAB has been incredibly fortunate to have a community partner in Ridgeview. The Inspirational Leadership Award publicly honors those who have facilitated and continue to contribute to our mission of providing transportation to those in need. With the initial and continuing support of Ridgeview, WeCAB is a sustainable service for our communities.”
WeCAB founder Mike Skinner, blind since birth, couldn’t see the dining room filled with WeCAB volunteers, but could bask in their warm applause.
Until 2011, Skinner had relied on a metrowide transit program. However, it expanded service during weekdays, but cut back on weekend transit options.
It was one more obstacle to transportation that Skinner couldn’t afford. In addition to being blind, at the time, Skinner was also being treated for cancer, requiring numerous trips to clinics and hospitals. His mobility was further challenged by injuries to his back and leg from a previous disastrous fall.
Waconia’s Ridgeview Medical Center is only 12 miles away from his home in Mound, but because of the inconvenience of the transit schedule, the trips took 1.5 hours each way.
He needed to find a different solution. That’s when he worked with a local pastor and the city of Mound to initiate a volunteer transportation service, which became WeCAB. Since 2014, it has grown to also serve residents in eastern Carver County like Chanhassen, Chaska and Victoria.
“I was always hoping that WeCAB would eventually surround Ridgeview like a wagon wheel (providing transportation),” Skinner said. “We’ve done that now and I’m blown away with the quality of the organization and the (WeCAB board). We have a good base of volunteers and most people in the area know who we are, especially those living in the southwest metro and Ridgeview area of service. And we’re gradually getting more awareness in western Carver County.”
Deb DeLong of Chaska has used WeCAB for more than five years. Initially, she used the service when her car broke down. She’s continued using WeCAB, not only for her medical appointments, but also for her volunteer position two times a week at Freshwater Furniture Depot in Waconia, thanks to her volunteer driver James Herd of Waconia. Herd said he volunteers because, “It’s easy to do and it’s for a good cause. And, I like to drive.”
Bob Moeller of Chaska has been a volunteer driver for five years, driving 4-10 times a month. He became interested after Mary Hershberger Thun, a member of the WeCAB board, spoke to a group in Chaska when the organization was looking to expand its service to Chaska, Chanhassen and Victoria.
“I like the flexible scheduling,” Moeller said, “and the idea of paying it forward.” He added that he encourages others to become WeCAB volunteers because, “The people I drive are pleasant and interesting, and it’s a service that is really needed and immensely appreciated.”
Jan DeMatteo of Orono has been a WeCAB volunteer driver since June of this year.
“I drive about once a week, and I find the people so interesting,” DeMatteo said. “People can use it for anything, not just for medical appointments, and it’s available to people of all ages. I’ve driven a young person who didn’t have a driver’s license yet, and I’ve driven clients to hair appointments and to the food shelf. (Lake Minnetonka) can be an isolated area, and the people who use the service are so appreciative.”