|SAFE Ride OTD program seeks volunteers|
|June 25, 2015 Jerry Purvis|
Now in its fourth year of service, SAFE Ride OTD is seeking volunteers for this year’s safety effort on Friday and Saturday, July 10 - 11 as part of Gering’s 94th Annual Oregon Trail Days celebration.
The mission of SAFE Ride OTD is to keep the public safe by offering free rides home to those who may celebrate to the point of being unable to drive safely home during Oregon Trail Days weekend.
Gering Citizen Publisher Lisa Betz started the program in 2012. She said that SAFE Ride was created so our community doesn’t have to endure a tragedy during Gering’s biggest weekend of fun. “We started it because we love the people of our community and we love Oregon Trail Days,” she said.
That first year, 16 volunteer drivers donated their vehicles, time and gas to provide about 175 rides, and it has grown each year since.
Betz said volunteers are now clad in bright, lime green T-shirts that identify them as part of the project. Magnetized signs for drivers’ cars let law enforcement know who they are at checkpoints. The program also posts drivers directly outside key watering holes to catch people leaving at closing time. Volunteers also make an appearance in the Saturday morning parade to remind people about the free service.
SAFE Ride OTD has received appreciation from area law enforcement for its efforts and the assistance it gives them in keeping roads safe. Out of town guests who have taken advantage of the program have been particularly impressed by the service.
“I think it puts a good feeling in people’s hearts when they visit Gering and are cared for in this way,” said Betz. “When people express their amazement that the program is free, I know they go home and talk about Gering in a favorable way and that makes me feel great.”
Betz stresses that anyone can use the service, from couples who want to enjoy a nice night together without worrying about a designated driver, to groups of friends or anyone who didn’t plan ahead for a safe driver. “We are here for anyone who needs a ride, no matter who they are, and there’s no judgement,” she said.
The key time periods when drivers are needed are from midnight to 1:30 a.m. both Friday and Saturday nights, July 10-11. Dispatchers are also needed to take calls for service. Rides will be offered Friday and Saturday nights between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.
An informational meeting for volunteers will be held tonight at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 25 and again at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 2 at the Gering Citizen offices on 10th Street. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend. Drivers need to have their own vehicle, gas and insurance.
For more information about SAFE Ride OTD or to get involved, call Lisa Betz at (308) 672-1114.