By Sharon Chin

ORINDA (KPIX 5) — Senior citizens in Orinda who need help going to the doctor and running errands have been getting help from a free transportation service that was set up years ago by Bay Area Jefferson Award winner Kate Wiley.

Volunteer Pam Schroeder recently went shopping and then delivered groceries to 86-year-old Eartha Newsong.

Normally, Pam would pick up Eartha to take her shopping, since Eartha no longer drives. Because of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, volunteers instead are running errands for the senior citizens and calling to keep in touch with them.

Newsong appreciates the service.

“It’s extremely valuable. It gives me sense of not being alone and isolated,” she said.

The program is called Seniors Around Town.

Working with the city, Kate Wiley founded the free transportation service for Orinda senior citizens in 2005. It operates under the non-profit Orinda Association.

“It’s life-changing for them,” Wiley explained. “It’s meeting their desire to remain in their home to remain independent.”

70 fully-vetted volunteers drive more than 120 seniors from their Orinda homes to where they need to go in the East Bay, taking them to events ranging from medical appointments to social engagements.

A third of the elderly riders live in low-income housing.

Seniors Around Town provides more than 1,400 rides a year. But as Kate says it’s more than a ride. Friendships form. And that’s vital for seniors’ well-being.

“If they’re not engaged in the community, they don’t eat, they don’t go to the doctor, they don’t take care of themselves. Then life expectancy is greatly reduced for them,” Wiley said.

Volunteer Pam Schroeder and program coordinator Cathy Goshorn say Seniors Around Town reflects Kate’s humble, caring heart.

“So things get done. And they get done with speed and they get done right and they get done with such love and kindness,” Schroeder said.

“It doesn’t matter who you are: if you’re a state senator or the man that sells the coffee around the corner,” Goshorn added. “She works with everybody in the community. And that’s what makes Kate great.”

So for getting Seniors Around Town for free, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Kate Wiley.