Las Vegas Valley Nonprofit’s Transportation and Food Services Benefit Local Seniors

  • Author: Edward Graham
  • Date: December 31, 2021
A group of Helping Hands of Las Vegas Valley volunteers work to set-up food deliveries into a 14-passenger bus.
A group of Helping Hands of Las Vegas Valley volunteers work to set-up food deliveries to go out to older adults in the area.

Whether it’s going to the grocery store, seeing their doctor, or simply leaving the house to enjoy social activities, senior citizens depend upon reliable transportation to live their lives. But for too many older adults across the country—especially those living alone on fixed incomes—the lack of affordable transit services in their communities can severely hinder their ability to access vital services and resources.

In order to address some of the challenges that seniors face when it comes to accessing food and healthcare, several organizations across the U.S. are providing a range of no-cost services for older adults to keep them safe, healthy, and mobile. Among the resources that these nonprofits provide are vital transportation programs that help seniors successfully navigate concerns about food insecurity and social isolation—issues that have only been exacerbated as a result of the ongoing pandemic. 

Transportation services help seniors maintain their independence

Nevada-based Helping Hands of Vegas Valley (HHVV), a nonprofit organization that provides free services to senior citizens in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, works to give older adults in the region the resources they need to remain independent. Founded in 2000, HHVV serves approximately 3,000 different seniors each month through four major program areas: a senior transportation program, a food pantry program, a home maintenance and minor repair program, and a respite care program. 

Marcia Blake, HHVV’s executive director, said the programs the nonprofit offers are a huge relief to clients who often cannot afford the cost of transportation on top of groceries and other expenses. 

“We have so many low-income seniors who use our services because there’s no cost and we’re not adding that extra burden onto them when their budgets are so tight,” Blake said. “The transportation program allows them to stay at home and remain independent, while also allowing us to pick them up and take them where they need to go for free.” 

In order to meet the needs of their clients—roughly 600 of whom use the transportation program—HHVV relies on a mix of their own ADA-compliant vehicles along with support from volunteer drivers. Blake said HHVV owns seven vehicles, ranging in sizes from a minivan to a 14-passenger vehicle, that can transport seniors to medical appointments, the grocery store, and larger group outings. 

“We have the same drivers, so our clients get used to them,” Blake said. “That’s part of the socialization aspect as well because when they see the same people, they’re able to build relationships and it provides them with a sense of security when the same person is coming to get them.”

HHVV often uses different types of vehicles to maximize interactions between clients and drivers. Trips for medical appointments often tend to include one client at a time, which allows them to be closer to the driver so it’s easier for them to converse. When taking larger groups of seniors to congregate meal locations, HHVV employs its larger vehicles so the clients are able to interact with one another. 

On days when their vehicles are in high demand, HHVV is able to rely on its network of nine volunteer drivers who have the training and certification needed to transport clients in their personal vehicles. Blake said that the volunteers serve a vital role in ensuring that their clients do not have to miss appointments, and can still go to the grocery store the same day they need to without having to wait for an available HHVV vehicle to transport them.

“Medical appointments take precedence over grocery store visits, but if a senior needs to get there and we’re booked, we can just call one of our volunteers to take them there and home without any issues,” Blake said. 

Improving the quality of life for seniors in the Las Vegas Valley

Since access to food is a major concern for older adults, HHVV works to serve approximately 2,4000 clients in the region through its food pantry program. This service is also heavily reliant on the support of volunteers, 110 of whom help deliver roughly 400 bags of groceries on the first and third Saturday of each month. 

At the height of the pandemic, HHVV also secured a grant for funding to purchase groceries online for their clients. The service helps seniors stay safe at home, while still receiving up to $50 worth of free food that they can order online and then have delivered to their homes at no cost. Blake said the service has helped HHVV’s clients better access fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats that they could not get before because of the associated costs.

HHVV also collaborates with other regional organizations to meet the transportation and food needs of their clients, including Las Vegas-based nonprofit Three Square. HHVV’s collaboration with the nonprofit hunger relief organization first began through its food pantry program, but has expanded to the transportation program through congregate meal services for seniors. 

“We work with Three Square as they open congregate meal sites and then provide transportation for the seniors to get that free meal,” Blake said. “These collaborations with other nonprofits are great because they really help us stretch our funding and help more people.” 

Working together with local organizations—including Nevada Senior Services, Lutheran Social Services of Nevada, and Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada—has also helped streamline the referral process, allowing HHVV to connect clients with other nonprofits that offer services and resources that they do not provide. 

Overall, HHVV’s programs and services have provided the region’s seniors with access to the food, transportation, and home maintenance services that they need to maintain their independence and health.

“Older adults can’t always take care of themselves,” Blake said. “A lot of our clients moved here for health reasons and don’t have family nearby. So we provide the services that an extended family would by going in and helping them with the things they need to live their lives.”

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