Riding the Wheels of Independence

With more than 2 million people living in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, traffic can be daunting. Margaret Houston said she doesn’t even like driving on some of Charlotte’s busiest roads.

It’s seniors like Houston that have prompted a new program, “Wheels of Independence,” at the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The program, formed in conjunction with the Shamrock Senior Center, provides a round trip from the senior center at 3925 Willard Farrow Drive, Charlotte, to the Wal-Mart Super Center at 1830 Galleria Boulevard, Matthews. The trip costs only $5.

Sandra Peake, transportation operations manager for the chapter, helps coordinate more than 17,000 trips per year for residents living in Mecklenburg and South Iredell counties who have no other means of transportation to important medical appointments. When she saw the need to expand the existing Transportation Program, she jumped on it.

“We’ve begun, on a very small scale, picking up seniors at a congregant site and transporting them to Wal-Mart, which allows them the opportunity to purchase prescription medication and some other basic items during their two-hour shopping trip. My hope, in the near future, is to be doing this on a larger scale,” Peake said.

These pre-planned, bi-weekly trips are in two two-hour shifts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1- 3:30 p.m.

“For me it was worth it because I don’t like driving on Independence Boulevard, and it was convenient,” praised Margaret Houston, one of the first participants to experience Wheels of Independence.

To learn how you can sign up and catch a ride, call the Red Cross at 704.347.8210 or send an e-mail to
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