A free ride service in Lincoln County will once again offer transportation — to passengers who have had the COVID-19 vaccine only — after a long interruption due to the pandemic.
Lincoln County Friends in Service Helping, also known as LC FISH, began in November 2015, when Edie Vaughan started volunteering to provide transportation for county residents to appointments at LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus in Damariscotta. Vaughan shared the idea with a friend, Terri Taylor, of Edgecomb, who joined the steering committee.
Taylor recently became the head of the program after Vaughan stepped down.
“I figured that after five years, it was a good point to step back so the organization can transition and grow,” Vaughan said. She will stay involved with LC FISH as a member of the steering committee and one of the people who manage the program’s phone line.
Anyone can request a ride by calling the LC FISH line and leaving a message with their contact information. An LC FISH coordinator then returns the call to get information about the ride, including pickup and drop-off times and places.
The request is then sent to the program’s drivers, who respond with their availability.
In LC FISH’s first few months, the program had a roster of about 20 people. The list of volunteers now hovers around 40, as driver availability changes minute to minute, Taylor said.
The program was working swimmingly until the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor and Vaughan said. LC FISH paused in March 2020, resumed service for a brief time in the summer, then stopped again as cases climbed.
Drivers stayed busy, however, delivering meals for the Lincoln County Food Initiative to residents of the Bristol peninsula two days a week, Vaughan said.
Now, with vaccination efforts progressing, LC FISH has restarted for fully vaccinated drivers and riders, Taylor said. Both the driver and the rider must wear masks, and the rider must sit in the back seat.
Prior to the pandemic, LC FISH averaged a couple hundred rides per month and met 80% to 90% of ride requests, Vaughan said.
“We can’t guarantee that we can give a ride,” Vaughan said. “It’s completely up to the drivers and their schedules.”
As LC FISH has restarted, Taylor said the community of riders and drivers has been thrilled.
“For a lot of our folks, this is the first time they’ve been able to get out since this all began,” Taylor said. “For most of these people, this is a connection.”
Most people are astonished to learn that LC FISH is a free service, Taylor and Vaughan said. All of the drivers are volunteers who pay for their own gas. The program uses a Tracfone, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, LC FISH’s “home base,” provides supplemental insurance for drivers, Vaughan said.
“We really try to keep expenses as low as possible,” Vaughan said.
The organization welcomes volunteers.
“We always have a need for more drivers,” Taylor said. “The more drivers we have, the more people we can help.”
For more information about LC FISH, call 350-9808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.