An entire community of Gulfport riders and GetGo volunteer drivers came to an immediate halt on May 30, when the free ride service, run by the non-profit Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center Foundation, ran out of funds for the program.
Four former volunteer drivers are not ready to say goodbye.
“Nobody had an inkling what was happening,” said former driver Charlene Trimmer. “There was no attempt to revive GetGo either.”
Familiar Faces, New Face for GetGo
For years, the program was running on the fumes of donations from sponsors, according to Chrisan Herrod, who serves as secretary of the Board of Directors of Gulfport’s Senior Center Foundation. The over $2,000 in insurance costs paired with cart maintenance proved too much for the occasional funding to cover.
Now, standing with one GetGo cart and a community of support, a new program is ready to make its mark in Gulfport. The new nonprofit will have no association with the Senior Center Foundation.
“We’re going to make changes based on logic and common sense,” Herrod said. “We’re not going to run the carts from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the hours will vary by season.”
Herrod and Trimmer, along with Melody Campbell and Larry Kennedy, are the four ex-drivers who are working to save the non-profit.
“It’s a shame that the foundation gave up on the program so easily,” Campbell said.
According to the group, they hope to secure many new sponsors and donations from the surrounding St. Petersburg areas, and keep up with constant fundraisers, something the original GetGo program did not do.
“There are many opportunities for fundraising here. We can tag onto GeckoFest and do something there,” said Kennedy. “I think we can make this a success, but we just have to get going.”
It will take about $25,000 to start GetGo back up, full force and comfortably, say the new organizers.
Until those funds are raised, GetGo needs a fiscal sponsor organization to sponsor them in order for the program to collect money as a 501(c)(3), or a nonprofit.
“What’s important to know is that the sponsor will not be responsible for us or have to provide any funding,” Campbell said. “They’ll just act as a place to park the money until our 501(c)(3) application goes through.”
According to the four volunteers, if the program is not up and running with a sponsor within three months, the chances of it continuing are slim.
What was Lost
Until the program gets back on its feet, the people that frequently used GetGo are out of a free way to travel throughout the city.
According to Campbell, a frequent driver for the program, some of the riders are blind, elderly or simply crave the daily conversation.
“There’s John, who is about 90 pounds and 5 feet 3 inches tall. He calls every morning, first thing in the morning to get his food from the Senior Center,” Campbell said. “If he’s not picked up, he walks about two hours to the center.”
The group of drivers claim that people who have a dire need for transportation exist all over town, and ordering a cab or a ride share option like Uber is financially out of the question for some.
“There’s really a big need for this in Gulfport,” Kennedy said.
For more information regarding GetGo and how to help, visit facebook.com/savetheGETGO/