The AARP Ride@50+ Program and Dallas Public Library have many things in common, including the intention to be a “one-stop shop” for those they serve and to act as a bridge to other areas of need. Of course, the bridge the library provides is figurative – providing access to knowledge and resources, while the AARP Ride@50+ Program provides a literal way for individuals to get where they need to go.
From its inception in 1901, the Dallas Public Library has always looked to fill community-wide gaps in service – and that is in large part why it was created – to be a free resource to the residents of Dallas. As the community and its needs expanded, so did the library’s offerings, including technology and branch expansions to 30 branch locations across the city once a final construction project is completed in 2021. The Dallas Public Library serves upwards of 11.5 million visitors online and in person yearly!
As the Adult Services Administrator at Dallas Public Library, Heather Lowe has had first-hand experience with individuals looking for transportation resources. Many patrons share very personal information about their need for transportation and she hears from people that know about all of their transportation options and still report that none of the options serve them. Constantly hearing about this unmet need and the gaps in service made Heather an instant supporter when introduced to the AARP Ride@50+ Program.
Asked why she continues to advocate for and serve her community, Heather expressed, “Not everybody gets a fair chance at becoming who they want to be, and I think that's something that's definitely worth getting up for in the morning.” That sentiment, paired with the like-minded individuals at the library, who are all working together for a common purpose, is what makes her work at the Dallas Public Library so fulfilling.
Passionate about supporting any program that has the potential to serve the homeless and individuals living with low incomes, including those in the 50+ age group, Heather would like to become one of the Ride@50+ Program’s biggest advocates because she sees the Program’s potential to positively impact her clients 'lives by offering them more affordable transportation access to services both at the library and beyond. Heather is very excited to spread the word about the Program to all branch locations throughout Dallas!
Sharon Beall, AARP Program Administrator welcoming MLC attendees.
When people are drawn together by a common purpose, the energy generated is palpable. That is exactly how it felt when approximately 40 of Dallas’s finest community leaders and AARP Ride@50+ Program leaders came together on January 30, 2020 for an impactful Mobility Leadership Circle meeting. This group of local advocates and advisors to the Program are crucial to ensuring the mobility needs of the community are being met.
As a way to emphasize the Mobility Leadership Circle and the Ride@50+ Program’s shared sense of purpose, Valerie Lefler, Executive Director of Feonix – Mobility Rising, which powers the Ride@50+ Program, led the meeting attendees in an engaging activity, “The Haiku of What We Do.” Each person wrote down who their agency or program serves and what they do, and one person from each table shared their responses. Organizations such as Catholic Charities Dallas, that serves independently living Hispanic seniors and the American Heart Association, that works to provide communities with solutions, shared that transportation matters because “everyone deserves access to health” and the “biggest challenge for clients: TRANSPORTATION.”
Individuals engaged in community changing discussion.
This exercise perfectly teed up Kate Schramm, Feonix’s Chief Strategy Officer, to present information about the AARP Ride@50+ Program, encompassing the who, where and why of the Program, underscoring the common purpose of everyone in the room – to get people where they need to go, easily. Emphasizing the AARP Ride@50+ Program’s goal to meet the community’s mobility needs, Kate got everyone excited to learn about how the Program works.
After a technology demonstration where the group got a chance to see how the online booking platform works, discussions on topics such as food insecurity, free or low cost mobility needs, highly utilized locations, and accessibility needs continued. The Mobility Leadership Circle members identified that the next critical step would be to start educating and training the community on the Ride@50+ Program’s goals, and how it can benefit the individuals they serve. A number of meeting attendees even volunteered to host and promote training sessions. The Ride@50+ Program is fortunate to have such a committed group of individuals in Dallas, who are willing to come together for the purpose of improving the community’s transportation ecosystem and embracing the importance of mobility for all.
January 2020 Dallas Area MLC attendees.