New Transportation Program Offers “Rides to and FROM”

After years of discussion and planning, Flat River Outreach Ministries is launching a transportation program next week on July 17, 2023.

“It’s very exciting,” says Wendie Preiss, FROM’s executive director. It is the first major initiative she has seen through from idea to implementation since she took the helm of the community non-profit in 2020.

Called “Rides to and FROM” – pun intended – the transportation program will offer rides within the Lowell Area Schools district. Preiss and program manager Monica Light say it will fill a pressing need for many in the community. The need for transportation was highlighted in the results of a 2021 survey by the organization, and it came up every single focus group held by FROM last year to gauge community needs.

“Not a lot of people would do what Wendie did,” Light notes. “[She] jumped in and said, let’s give it a shot.”

Preiss says the willingness to try new things – even if they are imperfect at first – aligns with FROM’s value of curiosity. “It’s a leap of faith,” she explains, adding that if they waited for all the little details to be ironed out, it could be years more before transportation services are offered in Lowell.

Instead, FROM is launching the transportation program with the understanding that they can be nimble and make adjustments as feedback is received from participants and the community.

How to Get Help with Transportation in Lowell, Michigan

“Rides to and FROM” will officially begin scheduling rides on July 17 with the first day of operation being July 24. Rides must be scheduled a week in advance, and they can be to any place in the Lowell Area Schools district. For instance, you could request a ride to the:

  • Store
  • Doctor
  • Library
  • Park
  • FROM

In other words, rides aren’t only limited to tasks such grocery shopping and doctor appointments. If someone wants to go to the library, there are rides for that. “It’s about the whole person,” Preiss says.

However, you probably won’t be able to get a ride to and from work since hours are limited to Mondays through Thursdays for now with the first ride appointment of the day being at 10:30am and the last at 3:30pm.

Eventually Preiss and Light would like to expand the hours and days of service, but that will require more volunteers to drive and perhaps another vehicle. The limited hours are another reason why rides are only available in the Lowell Area Schools district – driving to Grand Rapids would severely limit the number of people who could be helped each day.

You are eligible for a ride if you meet the following criteria:

  • You live within the Lowell Area Schools district boundaries.
  • You meet FROM program eligibility requirements, including an income within 300% of the federal poverty level, which is roughly $83,000 for a family of four.

There is a suggested donation of $2.00 each way per ride, but it is not required.

Rides will be provided in a minivan that FROM was able to get with the help of Betten Baker. The dealership has also agreed to help with vehicle maintenance. “Betten Baker has been a fantastic partner,” Preiss says.

Volunteers are needed as drivers, and they will need a chauffer license, which FROM will help them obtain.

To volunteer for the program or for more information about eligibility, call FROM at 616-897-8260. To request a ride, call 616-897-8260 ext 120, starting on Monday July 17. FROM staff will also assist those who call in determining whether they are eligible for transportation services from other non-profits such as Senior Neighbors or Hope Network.

“We really, truly don’t know what to expect,” Light says. However, she and Preiss are excited to offer the community a service that has the potential to be life-changing for some people.


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