RSVP 2020 Volunteer of the Year (copy)

Retired Senior Volunteer Program Executive Director Jeff Roucoulet greets 2020 Volunteer of the Year Gisele Yetz, of Pittsfield, at a small, socially distanced gathering Jan. 22. Less than two weeks before all Massachusetts residents older than 16 become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, RSVP has teamed up with local groups to offer free rides to vaccine and medical appointments. The initiative is recruiting volunteers, and has not launched yet. 

If you don’t have a ride to your vaccine or medical appointment in Berkshire County, a new ride service will be launching to help.

The no-cost service, called Wheels for Wellness, was announced by Jeff Roucoulet, director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Berkshire County, one of several organizations that teamed up to launch the initiative.

The organizations are recruiting volunteers, but once the free ride service debuts, it will be available to Berkshire County residents of all ages, according to Roucoulet.

The announcement comes less than two weeks before everyone 16 and older becomes eligible for the vaccine April 19.

“We recognize that there is a considerable gap in available transportation, not just for seniors, but for many other members of our community and throughout the Berkshires,” Roucoulet said in a news release. “As more people become eligible for vaccinations, we want to ensure that Wheels for Wellness provides transportation services to those who need this and other critical resources.”

Residents will have to schedule a ride at least 48 hours in advance and must be able to enter the rear seat of a vehicle without help. Rides will be booked by calling 413-395-0109 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

When the pickup day comes, residents should keep an eye out for an official “Wheels for Wellness” placard on the driver’s vehicle when they arrive. Free rides will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Wheels for Wellness is putting out a call to the community for volunteers to serve as drivers, Roucoulet said. Volunteers must be fully vaccinated, 55 to 79, have a good driving record, a reliable vehicle, valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.

According to Roucoulet, volunteers can select their own shifts or be on call. They must attend an orientation session.

Those interested in volunteering to be a driver for Wheels for Wellness should call RSVP at 413-499-9345.

The service is a collaboration among RSVP, the local organization partly backed by AmeriCorps Seniors, and the Berkshire Community Action Council, Berkshire Fallon Health Collaborative, Community Health Programs, Berkshire Interfaith Organizing, Berkshire Health Systems, and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.

Amanda Burke covers Pittsfield City Hall for The Berkshire Eagle. An Ithaca, New York native, she previously worked at The Herald News of Fall River and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise. Find her on Twitter at @amandaburkec.