EPISODE 23 – Wilson Rides and Introduction of Ask the Expert – January 15, 2023
Does your parent need a ride? Do you want a trusted and vetted driver to safely drive your aging
parent? Wilson Rides of Wilson County is highlighted in this episode. Listen as Bart, the host for the Vista
Points podcast named Choose Your Path, interviews Gaye Lynn Wilson of Wilson Rides and Darlene
Kemp with Vista Points as they introduce Ask the Expert to the Vista Points podcast.
EPISODE 23 SCRIPT:
Greetings from our Middle Tennessee studio. Welcome to today’s Vista Points podcast, “Choose Your Path”, where the Vista Points staff are committed to improving the quality of life for people living with a disability.
I’m Bart, your podcast host. My role is to walk with you on this journey of discovering and using special needs trusts.
We address a variety of topics in this podcast related to the use of special needs trusts. Today, we continue to educate you, through interviews with business partners who serve people living with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or who have special needs.
Today in our podcast, we are beginning a new segment called Ask the Expert. Stay tuned, we will debut our first Ask the Expert segment after we finish interviewing Gaye Lynn Wilson.
And now, without further adieu, I am happy to welcome and introduce you to Gaye Lynn Wilson. Gaye Lynn is the Executive Director of Wilson Rides. Hello, Gaye Lynn.
GLW – Hello, Bart. Thank you for having me on today.
BB – Oh, it’s wonderful to have you here. I’ve come to know Wilson Rides through some of the events you’ve had, such as last year’s Sip and Sounds. What a great event that was. The service you provide’s a blessing to our older adults and especially to ones living with a chronic illness or who are living with a disability. I’d like you to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, your position and just how you got involved with Wilson Rides.
GLW – Well, Bart, it’s a long story, but since we have a short time, I’ll give you the condensed version of it. I have spent my entire life involved in sports. My background was originally in education – teaching and coaching. And, I spent, as I said, my entire life in sports. But, in 2019, something interesting happened. My mom gave up driving. And, she was in her late 80’s when she did. And she, my mom was a super active senior. And, she was very involved in the senior center. She’s an artist. So, she had products that she sold at a local shop called the Basement Marketplace. She also was very involved in social media. Believe it or not, late 80’s. But, she is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Her title is, her name on those things, is Grandma On Deck, which is a reference to sports. But, when she gave up driving, I was trying to figure out how am I gonna to keep her active and still keep my current job. And, through that process, I started looking for transportation, public transportation in Wilson County. Which there isn’t a whole lot, and there wasn’t at the time. There was a cab company and another transportation company that took wheelchairs but also took anyone, really, seniors, to where they wanted to go. But, that was the only two options.
BB – I like it when our listeners learn about the business from the person who runs the business. Now, can you tell us about the services Wilson Rides offers? I know many people benefit from these rides.
GLW – Sure. Wilson Rides provides rides to senior citizens in Wilson County who are 55 and over, they are not driving any more, they seldom drive or maybe they are just not able to drive at the moment. And I say it that way because sometimes, some of these seniors are still driving. But, if they go to a eye doctor’s appointment and they can’t drive home, they need somebody to drive them home. So, that’s the “not currently driving” aspect of it. But, you know, some seniors have voluntarily given up driving. Some may have never learned to drive. You know, some have moved here, and they don’t know their way around Wilson County yet. There’s a variety of reasons why seniors 55 and over are not driving, and they need someone to take them somewhere. We give rides to a lot of different types of destinations. So, the grocery store, pharmacies, the bank, grocery shopping, the hair salon, retired school teachers’ meetings, other civic organizational meetings. And, we also give small pets a ride to the vet. Because if these seniors, you know, aren’t getting to where they want to go because they don’t have a ride, you know, neither are their pets. And, I always joke with them. I tell them, we’re not gonna take a horse or a cow or a large animal to the vet, but we will take your small pets to the vet. So, we take seeing eye dogs as well. So, we do provide a good service to the seniors in our community. And, it really is a more personal experience to those seniors because it’s a volunteer driver that’s been fully vetted who is giving a ride to that specific senior only.
BB – Wow. Wilson Rides is a great organization. What impact has Wilson Rides had in the Mount Juliet, Tennessee community in the last couple of years?
GLW – Well, we’ve made a huge impact, I’d like to think. I know that we have only missed giving one ride that was scheduled since we started. We started giving rides in June of 2021. So, we’ve had about a year and a half worth of rides. Our volunteer drivers, as I mentioned, they are fully vetted. We check their background and their driving record monthly to make sure that everything’s on par. But, our drivers are, these are outstanding citizens in our community that most everybody knows. They are Rotarians, they are Kiwanis Club Members, Chamber members, retired CPAs, retired business owners. They are people that are well known in the community. They have given, since June of ‘21, these volunteer drivers have driven over 26,975 miles as of today. They’ve donated over 1,336 volunteer hours of their time. And, they’ve given over 500 round trips. And, when I say a round trip, that’s from the rider’s home to home, but, there’s many stops on that round trip. So, they’ve actually made over 1,500 stops as well. So, I’d like to think we’ve made a huge impact on our community.
BB – Wow. Now, I’ve got a specific question for you. I know I’m gonna put you on the spot. Many of our clients, with Vista Points Special Needs Trusts, are unable to drive. We know that getting out, being mobile, and being able to do things on your own is important. I want our listeners to know that transportation is a covered expense when someone establishes a special need trust. The cost of a ride can be paid from the client’s trust. I can see where your service would impact our clients in more ways than just transportation. Can you elaborate on this aspect? How do your clients pay for their rides and how much does it cost?
GLW – Well, to become a member… You have to become a member, first of all, to ride with Wilson Rides. And, becoming a member means that you fill out an application and you complete a home visit. And, the cost of that is $25 annually. And, what we do on the home visit is we – and the home visit could be in the person’s home, in the conference room, or the activity center where they live. It really is about assessing their needs. It’s not, I always say, it’s not checking out the home or the animals. It’s assessing the person’s needs. You know, what do they need us to do? How many times will they ride with us? Can they actually walk 25 feet with no assistance or what devices are they using to help them walk? Those are the things, that’s the type of information and the things I need to gather to pass on to my volunteer drivers. So, there’s the annual $25 fee. And, then our round trips cost $6 each. A round trip to and from your home, a $6 round trip. That’s it. And, we ask that people pay in blocks of four. So, six times four is $24.
If somebody says I want to ride with Wilson Rides, they need to be 55 and older, they need to live in Wilson County, they need to go to places in Wilson County, and they need to be ambulatory – they need to be able to get in and out of a vehicle with limited assistance. They need to fill out the application, and then they need to complete a home visit. And, when they complete the home visit, that is the time that they pay the fee of $25 and then the added $24 for four round trip rides. Once they pay that fee, they are ready to get going.
We do take walkers, transport chairs, rollators, oxygen tanks, morphine tanks, canes, small pets to the vet. You know, we do those things. But, we do not take a wheelchair. And, I say that because you have to be able to get in and out of a car. And, even if you can do that, our volunteers have a hard time lifting wheelchairs. So, we do take transport chairs, but not wheelchairs. And, there is a company or two in Wilson County that do transport wheelchairs. That’s just not our service.
BB – Ok. Thanks, Gaye Lynn. How often can someone use the Wilson Ride service? How often can I get a ride?
GLW – Ok. You have, first of all, you have to schedule your rides seven days in advance. A week in advance, that’s seven days. You can use our service twice a week – and, we limit that just because of the number of volunteers. We never have enough volunteers to give all the rides that are needed, but we’re working on that. But, you can use our service twice a week. And, we give rides between the hours of 9am and 4pm. So, we can’t pick you up until 9am, and we have to have you home before 4pm if you have an afternoon type of appointment or something you want to do.
BB – Good! I was gonna ask you about the specific hours. And, you just answered that before I even ask you. I appreciate that. I have another question about it. What if someone wants to become a volunteer driver; how do they sign up? And, what kind of qualifications must a person have?
GLW – Well, you can sign up on our website. And, the website address is wilsonridesinc.org. It’s wilsonridesinc.org. And, there’s a section that says Volunteer, and under that it says Volunteer Driver. That is the preliminary process that you go through. You are able to sign up for different driver trainings that we have. We hold them in Lebanon and Mt. Juliet. You also can sign up for an informational session. Let’s just say you want information, but you’re not ready to do the driver training. You can sign up for one of those. And, those are done online via Zoom. The training sessions to actually become a driver are done in person. And, I tell people this. You know, they ask “Well, can’t we do that over the internet as well?” And, this is my own, personal philosophy. But, my mom is part of this program, and I want to meet the person face-to-face who might possibly drive my mom. And so, I treat all the seniors in our program that way. I look at them. I want to know who the driver is, and I want to meet them face-to-face. So, that’s one way. Or, you can simply call me on the phone and talk about it, and then I can get you signed up as well. And, that phone number is 615-622-5557.
BB – Thanks, Gaye Lynn, I really like the personal touch that Wilson Rides has connecting with people and working with people. That’s neat. I appreciate you allowing me to talk to you today and interview you and ask you questions. And, could you tell our listeners one more time your website and phone number in case they want to get in touch?
GLW – Sure, you can find us at wilsonridesinc.org, and that’s wilsonrides, with an “s”, I-N-C, dot org. And, our phone number is 615-622-5557. And, there’s also a link on that website to our podcast.
BB – Thank you so much for being with us, Gaye Lynn. I appreciate the time you’ve spent with us, and I know our listeners appreciate it. Now, I’m going to change our focus a little bit to our first Ask the Expert Question and Answer. Vista Points Executive Director, Miss Darlene Kemp, is here today to answer a couple of questions that were submitted by you. Welcome, Darlene. You might remember her. She was on once before last year.
DK – Hi Bart. I have a magazine column that’s becoming pretty well known across the state of Tennessee, and it’s called Ask the Expert. I thought it’d be great to incorporate it into the podcast because if one person has a question, I bet others have the same.
And, as you know, people of any age who are living with a physical, mental or intellectual disability or people who have special needs can qualify for special needs trusts.
BB – Ok. I’ve got a couple of questions from you. One of our listeners established a third party… Well, they sent one in, and I’m gonna ask you the questions, and I will quote it just how they wrote it. One of the questions a listener asked is “I have recently established a third-party special needs trust for my son. He has Autism. He will not be able to care for himself, as an adult, without additional assistance. The money I have gifted my son, in this trust, will take care of him in future needs. I want to be sure the money is used correctly so any expenditure does not affect the government benefits he is receiving. What are some allowable expenses,” Darlene?
DAK: Well, although this mother may not realize what an exceptional gift she gave her son, the trustee is there to serve the son’s needs so he can live a good quality of life. Many parents request services such as: respite care so they can have a break, non medical care, allowing social interaction with someone other than a family member can happen; housekeeping is needed with many of our clients; additional therapies or services such as chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage benefits the clients; the purchase of items such as educational toys and classes can be made; therapeutic equipment and electronic devices can be purchased. Some of those are computers and cell phones and gaming devices. All of these items or services can be paid from the special needs trust without jeopardizing the son’s government benefits.
BB – Thank you for that answer, Darlene. That includes a lot of things. I know you follow the letter of the law. But, let me ask you, has anyone ever tried to use a special needs trust for something that is not approved?
DK – Well, yes, they have. And, that’s one thing that when I first started with the organization, was a wake up to reality because I thought everyone followed the letter of the law. And, for some of the requests we receive, I don’t think that the people are doing it on purpose to try to take advantage of their loved one who has the special needs trust. I think that they feel like they deserve it or they want to help someone else. For example, many times, especially around Christmas, we get requests to buy gifts for the beneficiary’s caregivers. And, we cannot do that. The money has to be used for the sole benefit of the beneficiary.
BB – Thank you, Darlene. Thank you for answering the questions. And, thank you to the listeners for tuning in to today’s episode of Choose Your Path, the Vista Points podcast. I encourage you to subscribe to the YouTube channel so you can be notified as our latest episodes go live on the 1st and the 15th of every month. The Vista Points YouTube channel is named Vista Points SNT, that’s S-N-T as in “special needs trust”.
You can also find past podcast episodes on the Vista Points website at vistapoints.org, along with a transcript of each podcast. That website again is vistapoints-dot-O-R-G.
If you don’t already know, the episode topics are in response to listeners’ questions! If you haven’t asked your question yet, I encourage you to ask or share concerns online or by calling. When you’re online, visit our Facebook page named Vista-Points-Inc, that’s Vista-Points-I-N-C.
While you’re there, you can send us a direct message, otherwise known as a D-M, by clicking on the Messenger button. It looks like a sideways lightning bolt. For those who are comfortable, ask your questions via Facebook!
You are welcome to contact the Vista Points office at 888-422-4076. That number again is 888-422-4076. Each Vista Points team member stands ready to answer your questions and assist you.
Enjoy your day with your loved one. Regardless of where or when you find us, we walk beside you on your path. Our desire is for people, of any age, who are living with a physical, mental or intellectual disability, to have a good quality of life and to give their family peace of mind knowing Vista Points is looking out for the beneficiary. I look forward to our next steps together and speaking to you soon.