WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Red Cross in Wichita is ending a free service that provides the elderly with rides to medical appointments.
Michelle Jantz, executive director of the American Red Cross Midway Kansas Chapter, said in a statement that no other organization so far has announced plans to take over the program, which ends June 29.
The program offers rides to medical appointments to residents ages 60 and older who live within Wichita. It donates 15,300 one-way trips each year to 600 residents, averaging 29 round-trip rides each weekday. The program costs $371,354 a year, paid for by United Way of the Plains, the Red Cross and some tax dollars.
The decision to end the program came from the national Red Cross office as part of an effort to focus on disaster relief and blood donations, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“I’m so disappointed that the national Red Cross did not see fit to allow their local office to continue what was proving to meet a need,” said Pat Hanrahan, president and CEO of United Way of the Plains, which helps fund the program with the Red Cross.
Nicole Rogers, a Wichita State University professor who researches older adults, said if some older residents can’t find other rides it could jeopardize their ability to live on their own.
“Another aspect is that if they delay their appointments, then their health problems could get more complicated quickly,” she said.
The local Red Cross chapter hosted a meeting with United Way to seek local nonprofits that could continue the service last year, and when none stepped up, Red Cross continued the program one more year, hoping an organization would come forward.
Hanrahan said if another organization takes over, United Way would still contribute its $188,816 share.
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