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Need a lift? Island Rides is there to help

  • Mon Jan 4th, 2021 8:06am
  • Life

Submitted by Island Rides

When San Juan Island’s Concours d’Elegance was canceled this summer, islanders missed viewing the wonderful vehicles, the Model Ts and beautifully restored Jaguars, as well as sharing in the camaraderie of their owners. Rotary, the sponsor of the annual Concours event, pondered how to replace the funds from the canceled event to benefit the island nonprofit groups. Aptly, they decided to support another vehicle, one that provides rides for islanders in need, with a grant of $3,400 to Island Rides, previously known as RoundTowner in Friday Harbor.

Island Rides expanded to Lopez in late September. On San Juan and Lopez, the service provides rides to seniors, people with disabilities and those who need a ride in an environment-friendly electric car. On Lopez, it’s the blue Leaf seen around the island for the last few months.

Island Rides’ volunteers give rides seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On San Juan, drivers paid through a grant from a national organization allows expanded (7 a.m.-7 p.m.) hours. Island Rides service is available to all regardless of ability to pay. A donation of $3 is suggested, and a larger donation funds services to other riders. COVID protocols are in place: drivers and passengers are both screened for symptoms and exposure; cars are sanitized regularly and everyone wears a mask (masks and gloves are provided to passengers, as needed); and the Leaf is well ventilated.

The idea for providing free rides to island residents started with Bob Reilly, the owner-operator of a taxi on San Juan Island. Reilly saw a need for free and donation-based rides for fellow islanders and began giving free rides as an offshoot of his for-hire taxi service.

Curt VanHyning, then a San Juan island resident and a county social worker, also saw the potential in this service and the two began working together to create a sustainable operation that would not rely solely on Reilly’s goodwill and energy. They founded the nonprofit — San Juan Islands Shuttle System — and with donations, they obtained dedicated vehicles, first for San Juan and now for Lopez. In addition, they partnered with Senior Services on these two islands so that volunteer drivers could use wheelchair access vehicles when needed.

Since 2012, Island Rides has provided lifts on San Juan Island to more than 26,000 seniors, and disabled and low-income residents. Now, Lopez Island has a branch of this service and VanHyning and Reilly plan to expand to Orcas within the next year, thus the change to Island Rides, a name that will encompass service on all our major islands.

On San Juan, Island Rides partners with Peace Health and with Valmark, the grocery stores owners, to assist their clients. Most recently, Island Rides, Lopez has partnered with Lopez Village Market to help deliver groceries to those shut-in during the pandemic.

The new Island Rides website, www.islandrides.org, has more information about getting a ride, and volunteering or donating to this certified 501(c)3 nonprofit. Island Rides lifts are available to everyone, so the next time you find yourself with a pressing need for a ride and no car, call 360-317-3107 on Lopez, 360-298-6108 on San Juan, or send an email to islandrides@gmail.com to schedule a ride.

Currently, Island Rides is available every day. Please call us the day before you need a ride, if possible. As we are quite busy, we almost always need a few hours’ advance notice. When you make an appointment with your doctor, call us next.