United Way to launch ride program July 1 | News

Henderson County United Way is spreading the word about new programs to help residents get the services they need and go where they need to go.

Executive Director Kilena Underwood told the Athens Kiwanis Club members Tuesday about the resources available.

“We have transportation challenges here,” she said. “Henderson County has large geography to navigate with indirect travel routes.”

On the map, Henderson County takes up more than 900 square miles and has a population of more than 80,000. Many residents live several miles from the nearest supermarket, box store, a food bank or hospital.

United way is hoping to ease that burden on residents who don’t have a vehicle or access to someone who’ll drive them where they need to go.

“We are problem solvers at United Way,” Underwood said. “Let me introduce you to Ride United.”

Ride United Last Mile Delivery, empowers the delivery of charitable food and essential items. Although this program was brought about by response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an approach to solving long-standing food access issues in the United States.

Underwood said Pets Eating Too, launched in March, helps get meals to animals who live with Meals On Wheels recipients. Underwood said some of those who were getting meals would share them with their pets because they had nothing else to feed them.

Beginning July 1, a program begins to assist residents with rides to locations like doctor’s offices, grocery stores and jobs.

There are 18 nonprofits that partner with United Way in the county. The fundraising goal is $180,000.

The average time to work for a Henderson County resident is 32 minutes. Nationwide, the average is 25.5 minutes.

“Unfortunately there are no formal transportation options to serve our residents,” Underwood said.

There is a true housing shortage in the county, with 0.8% of houses are apartments available to buy or rent, she said. The rates make them out of the reach of many county residents.

“Finding a doctor is also difficult,” Underwood said. “There are 86 physicians for every 100,000 residents in the county compared to 210 for each 100,000 in the United States.”

Specialty care, such as mental health treatment, is even more scarce.

For more information, call United Way at 903-288-2808. You can also contact the Henderson County HELP Center at 903-675-4357.

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