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Help seniors get to appointments

Rides for Health is a service where volunteer drivers take folks to medically necessary appointments. The passengers don’t need to be elderly although the majority of them are.

It was originally started by the Cancer Support Center and is being administered by Aitkin County CARE because they had the staff on hand to answer the phones and set up rides.

Dave Scott, 70, who lives south of Aitkin, has been driving for Rides for Health for a few years. The furthest he’s taken a passenger is Bemidji. Baxter and St. Cloud are his two most common destinations. Although the amount he drives is based on client need, it averages one or two times a month.

“Well, I think it lifts their spirits,” said Scott in an interview. “They have someone to talk to and do stuff with. Sometimes, I don’t think these people get very many visitors. We talk about all kinds of stuff on the way – their personal history and news about their families. I’ve even helped to line up a contractor for one of my clients who needed remodeling done.”

What does Scott get out of being a volunteer? “Well, I see some country I haven’t seen before and I enjoy driving. It’s fun to go do personal shopping while they are at their appointments. Years ago when I needed surgery I didn’t know about Rides for Health so I recruited a neighbor to help me. I know it’s an important program for folks who don’t have a lot of family in the area.”

About the rides

The rides are for Aitkin County residents only for medically necessary appointments that include doctor, eye doctor, chiropractor, dentist, etc. The rides can be given to Aitkin, Crosby, Brainerd or even St. Cloud and the Twin Cities – anywhere in the state of Minnesota.

It is asked that passengers first try to get rides from family, friends, neighbors or church members. If they can use veterans transportation or get transportation paid through Medical Assistance or their medical insurance, that is the route they should go.

Passengers call the Rides for Health line at 218-927-4077. It is answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. They should give as much notice as possible for the rides. They will be asked for their name, address and phone number, the address and time to be picked up, the location and time of the appointment and an estimate as to how long it will take. They will also be asked if they need any accommodations, such as if they use a wheelchair or walker or can’t climb into a truck, etc.

Then, CARE staff tries to match a volunteer driver with the passenger to get the person to the appointment. Rides for Health can only be used once a week so passengers need to find an alternate source of transportation if they have frequent appointments.

Passengers are asked to make a donation based on the number of miles they travel from Aitkin.

Drivers needed

Rides for Health can always use drivers. Many drivers go south for the winter so that is a time when drivers are sorely needed.

Drivers are reimbursed for mileage and can find much satisfaction by taking people to their appointments. They often build positive relationships with their passengers and gain the fulfillment of knowing that they are helping someone to remain a vital member of the community.

Drivers are especially needed in the town of Aitkin. Many volunteers live in the country but it creates extra mileage if they have to travel 15 miles each way to bring someone who lives in Aitkin to an appointment in Aitkin.


Rides for Health needs a constant source of funding, besides what the passengers contribute. Often, this is the only feasible means for people to travel to their appointments. Please consider donating to Rides for Health in honor or memory of a loved one.

It takes away a lot of stress if passengers can count on a safe and friendly ride to their needed appointments.

If you want to volunteer or donate, please call Betty Jacobs at 218-927-4077 or email

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