For Provider Participants: Partnerships

One-Call Volunteer Transportation Service

The initiation of a volunteer transportation program was brought about with this goal in mind: transport Polk County residents to any place, at anytime and wherever the destination the individual may need to go. The Central Iowa Shelter & Services VISTA Veterans Outreach Project group factored improved quality of life rides as a major determinant in our decision making processes. By providing a volunteer transportation service to groups such as elderly persons, persons with disabilities and to low-income individuals and homeless individuals as well as veterans, there lies a sense of hope that those individuals can, too, access basic needs and participate in activities of daily living. A volunteer transportation program to the Polk County community will aim to relieve stress for hundreds, if not thousands, of Polk County residents searching for an opportunity to be self-sufficient and practice one’s independence. In thinking about the Polk County’s transportation needs and the main objective of improving quality of life for its residents, the CISS VISTA VOP group developed a strategy that aims to fill transportation gaps in the area.

The Central Iowa Shelter & Services VISTA Veterans Outreach Project group believes in starting small, then strategically building the program to further enhance its capacity. The Group understands that the plan calls for a one-call/one-click transportation program. In thinking about the idea of “one-call/one-click”, we aim to place the least amount of stress on the client as possible in order for decreased burden in attaining a ride; thereby, the client only having to make one (1) call to access transportation services. Therefore, the Group plans to collaborate with United Way 2-1-1/Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) 5-1-1 in the efforts of connecting people with transportation services. Iowa DOT 5-1-1 would serve as the primary call center for our clients, as well as for the transportation program. A representative at 5-1-1 would then refer and dispatch calls to Central Iowa Shelter & Services for individuals in the qualifying statuses: (1) low-income, (2) persons with disabilities, (3) elderly personas and (4) veterans. Information would be taken by the dispatcher identifying the individuals per qualifying status. Various forms will be used throughout the process flow to document the following: name of client, qualifying status, volunteer availability, services offered, start and end destination, start and end mileage, etc.

The initial phases of directly involving the community in the volunteer transportation program would require the Group to recruit a strong volunteer base of fifty (50) Polk County residents who are dedicated in enriching their communities by giving their time to offer a ride for someone in need. In later phases, the Group aims to incorporate social capital within the Polk County community. Social capital involves building a horizontal network of residents within their own residential communities. The TRIP Model will help the Group utilize the concept of reaching out to members of their own communities in attaining a ride. By way of clients recruiting their own volunteer drivers, entire communities can become invested in the idea of volunteering their time and resources for community members within their own backyard. The Group plans to service all major cities within the Polk County, but not limited to: Des Moines, West Des Moines, Clive, Urbandale, Ankeny, Altoona, Johnston and Grimes. The Group plans to offer to following services for transportation destinations: grocery stores, medical appointments, and jobs, trips to the Des Moines International Airport/Greyhound and other bus services, and the recreational activities such as visiting friends, parks, shopping centers and libraries. The Group plans to implement a reimbursement model with a monetary value per mile by documenting the odometer reading from the start of the trip to the finished destination of the trip. In the initial phases, the hours of operation will vastly depend on the volunteer drivers’ availability. In later phases with the incorporation of the TRIP Model, the hours of operation would most likely shift to 24 hours a day/7 days a week, as the client would have the ability to recruit his or her own volunteer driver at any time of the day or night.


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  1. Comment

    Kevin, Wow!

    This sounds like an excellent program, and an excellent model on 1)how to operate program - and 2) how to organize and build a service program.

    Have you asked the National Council on Senior Transportation (NCST)to consider writing up your program for their website and newsletter?

    Are you in touch with Margi Ness, the United We Ride Ambassador, for your FTA Region? Your program in Polk County sounds like the kind of program she wants to encourage and support. I know that she has worked with similar programs in Nebraska and Kansas.

    Also, please send your website if you have it. I would like to learn more about your program so that I can help spread the word about it through our publications. I work on senior transportation including volunteer transportation at CTAA (which also manages the UWR Ambassador program). I am also an active member of NCST's Steering Committee. Jane Hardin (

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      kervincollier ( Idea Submitter )

      Jane, thank you for your comments and contact suggestions! I am familiar with Margi Ness, as she spoke at a recent Mobility Matters Conference in Des Moines, IA. She sounds well versed in the transportation community. Her feedback will be highly beneficial.

      We are in the early stages of developing the program; however, I would be more than happy to send you what we have thus far. We believe in supporting the residents of Polk County; therefore, any outreach efforts would be essential to our success.

  2. Comment
    Diane Stephens

    Our agency wants to create a volunteer transportation to address the needs of the returning disabled veterans to get to the medical center that is located in Philadelphia. The staff has been submitting grants to get free four door sedans for the volunteers to drive. In NJ the cost of insurance is so high most people advoid volunteering to transport others in their cars. In fact, there is a group working to stop insurance companies from placing a surcharge on insurance of volunteer drivers. With the amount of operating funds decreasing each year, volunteers are the answer to the transportation shortage. This is not just medical but also needed for job training, job interviews and transport to paid employment.

    Comments on this comment

    1. Comment
      kervincollier ( Idea Submitter )

      Thank you for your comments, Ms. Stephens. We are more than familiar with the risks that are involved in developing such a program and that volunteers are a vital component in our program. There exists is a strong camaraderie with the veteran community, in that, veterans help veterans. Our volunteer recruitment plan will focus on veterans who are willing and able to help their "band of brothers", if you will.

  3. Comment
    Brent Paulsen

    This project seem like it may be built out of the VTCLI project the Iowa DOT recently submitted for a statewide one-call one-click center, which will survey all veteran transportation providers in Iowa in order to create a statewide veterans transportation database with complete information from every provider and county. This new veterans transportation database will be consolidated with the currently separate databases of the Iowa 211, Iowa Family Caregiver (Aging), and the Iowa COMPASS Center for Disabilities and Development, to create a single comprehensive one-click resource.

    Following the creating of the "one-click" web site, the single "one-call" system will involve combining the separate phone systems of the Iowa 211, COMPASS, and Iowa Family Caregiver into a single system that can be accessed through one centralized telephone number. This will allow veterans, persons with disabilities, persons over 60, and the general public to access information about transportation and other available human service resources.

    I'd like to learn more about your project and if it can be implemented alongside the VTCLI project. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.

  4. Comment
    Edward Ruebensam

    Kevin, if you can could you send me a copy of your plan? I work at the VA hospital in Chicago and would like to start something like this.