Driving steering wheel

A Keene-based volunteer group that provided rides to medical appointments is closing but has donated its assets to Home Healthcare, Hospice and Community Services, which will continue offering medical transportation for area residents.

The donation from Volunteers Enabling Transportation, which started in September 2016, will contribute to HCS’s transportation services, including the Friendly Bus and Medical Express, according to a news release from HCS on Monday.

“By donating our funds to HCS, we know that residents in this region will continue to be provided rides to medical appointments, which was always our single mission,” VET President John McGauley said in the release. (Editor’s note: McGauley writes regular columns and Monadnock Profile stories for The Sentinel.)

VET sold its fleet of three vehicles, and donated a total of $72,000 to HCS, McGauley said Tuesday. 

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted VET, causing the group to suspend operations from April to July 2020. After reopening, several factors, including the loss of some drivers and a struggle to maintain an all-volunteer organization, led the group’s board to decide to close, according to the release.

VET had a total of 22 volunteer drivers during its 4½ years in existence, McGauley said. The nonprofit group provided more than 7,000 free rides for local residents who needed transportation to hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices, according to the release. VET took people to Keene, Peterborough, Concord, Manchester and Lebanon, as well as the Boston area, Brattleboro and the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in White River Junction, Vt.

HCS offers door-to-door rides for older adults and people with disabilities to locations in Keene via the Friendly Bus and transportation to medical appointments at the VA in White River Junction and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, according to the release. As a nonprofit, HCS recommends a $1 donation for each ride on the Friendly Bus and $20 per trip on the Medical Express, but no one will be turned way for inability to donate, according to the group’s website.

Keene’s City Express, which is operated by HCS, also makes 17 daily stops at Cheshire Medical Center, the news release notes. HCS transportation services, which began in the 1970s, are on track to provide more than 21,000 rides this year.

“We are honored to continue the work of VET,” HCS Transportation Manager Charles Pratt said in the release. “As the community emerges from the pandemic, we are receiving more and more requests for rides to medical appointments and this very generous donation will certainly help us to meet this need.”

This story has been updated to add information on VET's fleet of vehicles, and total donation to HCS.

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.