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SAFE Ride OTD enters 5th year
June 24, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Now five years old, the SAFE Ride OTD project for Oregon Trail Days does just what it advertises: Noble volunteers work around the clock to get hearty celebrants home safely.

Gering Citizen Publisher Lisa Betz-Marquez said she started the program in 2012 after a Facebook discussion on Oregon Trail Days focused on the dangers of drunk driving.

“Some of the folks were concerned about all the drinking that goes on,” she said. “They wished a service were available to get people home safely. I felt compelled to do something about it.”

The first year started small, with 16 volunteer drivers donating their vehicles, time and gas to provide about 175 rides. It’s grown ever since.

“Most of the people who request rides have only had a few drinks, but want to get home safely,” Betz-Marquez said. “That’s why we do this.”

Although it’s a free service run by volunteers giving of time, vehicles and gas, those requesting rides often offer to help pay for the driver’s expenses.

Come July 8-9, drivers can be identified by the big bold words SAFE Ride OTD emblazoned on lime green T-shirts.

­Magnetic signs will also hang from driver vehicles so law enforcement will know who they are.

“I’ve received many comments from law enforcement, from the State Patrol to local police departments who appreciate our service in helping make the roads safer,” Betz-Marquez said.

“People from other areas who are back to celebrate Oregon Trail Days just can’t believe we do this for free. It leaves an impression that Gering is a progressive, generous, and caring community. That’s a good impression to leave with visitors.”

Heading up the program this year is Kevin Fordyce, who has been a driver in past years. Headquartered at the Gering Citizen offices, SAFE Ride OTD dispatches rides to people who call to request transportation.

“I starting driving for SAFE Ride two years ago and really enjoyed it,” Fordyce said. “With Lisa involved in theater work this summer, I volunteered to head up the program this year.”

He said they’re still seeking drivers for SAFE Ride and dispatchers to take calls at the Citizen offices. Interested persons can call him at 308-765-1408 to volunteer. A drivers’ meeting will be held on Thursday, June 30, at 5:30 p.m. at the Gering Citizen offices.

Interested drivers should bring a driver’s license and proof of auto liability insurance.

First Student, which provides transportation for school children, is joining SAFE Ride OTD for the first time this year.

“We’re all about safety at First Student,” said location manager Patricia Dooley. “It’s an honor to be a part of SAFE Ride in offering transportation for people to get home safely.”

Dooley said she will be driving one of the First Student school buses the night of SAFE Ride. “We’ll be parked at the Gering Civic Center from about 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.,” she said. “People can come there for a ride home. We’re used to transporting students to and from school, so this is nothing new.”

Dooley said SAFE Ride OTD is a phenomenal program in which to get involved. “We want to give back to the community. People who want to celebrate during Oregon Trail Days won’t have to worry about getting home safely.”

One of First Student’s mottos is “If you can’t do it safely, don’t do it.” For those who want to celebrate, they’ll take care of the transportation.

Rides will be offered July 8 and 9 from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. If you might need the service, please call 308-633-6397 or come to the Gering Citizen offices at 1447 10th Street, across from the Gering Bakery.

We want everyone to have a fun-filled and safe weekend as we celebrate the 95th Oregon Trail Days.
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