Provide a Ride
BOOMER interviews an organization that is Quietly Making a Difference in RVA.
One organization in town is trying to save lives one cab ride at a time.
Volunteers with Provide a Ride (PAR) attend local events like the Richmond Folk Festival and the Friday Cheers concert series, offering to pay the cab fare for imbibing revelers. The goal is to prevent drunk driving and reduce alcohol-related accidents, injuries and driving-under-the-influence charges, says founder Wes White, 66.
It’s a particularly important goal during the holiday season.
A SETBACK BECOMES AN OPPORTUNITY
Provide a Ride was conceived in February 2012, three months after White’s life-changing experience. “I had a personal struggle with alcohol from 1995 to 2011 – until I got a DUI in November 2011,” he says.
He spent much of that winter worrying about his future. “I beat myself up pretty bad about it. … Then one day I said to myself, ‘I want to do something to help people who struggle with alcohol – this is an opportunity.’ I wanted to do something positive from this.”
By July 2012, Provide a Ride was incorporated as a certified nonprofit.
Since then, PAR volunteers have been attending popular events to 1) educate on the dangers of drunk driving and 2) offer to pay cab fare (up to $45) for those needing it.
The process is simple: Any person who has been drinking can approach PAR requesting a cab ride; Napoleon Taxi is called (other local cab services are expected to participate in the future), and PAR gives the driver a voucher for the fare. Bills are paid later.
“It’s for whoever needs it [if they are of age to drink],” White says. “What you do is take away excuses by offering to pay their cab ride. You just give them one less reason to get in the car and start the engine.”
Also, PAR has a voucher program at local bars and restaurants – the Hippodrome, Bottom’s Up Pizza, Capital Ale House restaurants and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery are a few – where managers can hand out cab fare vouchers to patrons.
500 DRINKERS OUT FROM BEHIND THE WHEEL
Provide a Ride has provided about 500 cab rides thanks in part to donations and corporate sponsors like Venture Richmond, Haley Buick GMC, Batteries Plus, Ashley Furniture, Marks and Harrison law firm and others.
This fall, PAR was one of 10 American organizations to win a $3,000 grant from Safeco Insurance; the organization is also competing for a $10,000 national prize. Donations, sponsorships and grants help fund free cab fares, marketing materials and resources.
Volunteers are welcome, and needed, to attend events and discuss how PAR operates, and help with logistics.
Future efforts include prepaid fare cards and involving more restaurants and bars in PAR’s voucher program.
But is there any worry about people taking advantage of Provide a Ride’s approach?
“I’m of the opinion that if a person gets 20 cab rides, and we pay for 20 cab rides,” White adds, “that’s better than them getting 19 free cab rides and an accident on the 20th time.”
Look for PAR at several 2015 events, including Shamrock the Block on March 14; the Church Hill Irish Festival, March 22-23; Celebrate the Vine Wine Festival, April 11; and the XL102 Chili Cook Off, April 18, among others.
For more: visit providearide.org.