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Need a lift? Volunteer group provides free rides to seniors in Santa Barbara County who don't drive

Ruthson Zimmerman

Santa Maria based Community Partners in Caring serves nearly 700 seniors.

It’s been a busy day for a Santa Maria man.

David Cook drove to the Santa Ynez Valley, where he picked up a man to shuttle him back and forth to a Goleta doctor’s appointment. But, he’s not an Uber or Lyft driver.

Cook is a volunteer in a program which helps seniors like Peter Skafte get to places they need to go, and does it for free.

"I have a very bad foot, and I can't drive, so I needed a ride to the Goleta Valley Wound Care Center," said Skafte. "This is's a long way to take a cab, and it would cost you a fortune."

Skafte is being helped by the more than two decade old program designed to match volunteers with seniors who need transportation assistance.

"Community Partners in Caring is a volunteer, care-giving organization, and it was was started by a group of volunteers who say many seniors couldn't get to their doctors." said Hilda Zacarias, who is Executive Director of Community Partners In Caring.

"We are the only volunteer caregiving organization in Santa Barbara County," said Zacarias.

She said it started nearly three decades ago in Santa Maria, but has expanded to serve most of the county.

The non-profit serves nearly 700 people, and has around 100 volunteers.

 "I wanted to give back with what time I have remaining on this good earth," said Cook.

In addition to providing transportation, the service has an important sidebar benefit. It helps get some seniors living in isolation out into the community.

The program is largely funded by grants and donations, so they are always looking for financial help. But, one of the biggest issues they face is not enough volunteers.They are always looking for more, because they don’t have enough to met the demand for help.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.