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Pictured are: Pat Gruber (ElderPoint), Ellen Simms (ElderPoint), Jan Parham (FDOT), Michelle Peronto (FDOT), Jane Hammond (ElderPoint), Robin Nowell (ElderPoint), Paul Simmons (FDOT), Heather McElwee (Polk County Transit), Gwen Johnson (Polk County Transit)

This recognition is for ElderPoint’s Bluebird Mobility Network, a network of volunteers that provides transportation to elderly, disabled and otherwise needy clients.

This is the second time in four years ElderPoint’s Bluebird Mobility Network has been honored by the commission. The organization received the Innovation of the Year award in 2011 for the design of this program.

“It’s exciting that we won for the concept of it, and now we’ve won for actually operating it,” says ElderPoint Executive Director Jane Hammond.

ElderPoint’s network was recognized out of “dozens upon dozens of operators statewide,” says Dave Walters, a communications specialist for Polk County who nominated the organization for the award.

“It shows how well Jane and her group have turned this into one of the most productive and respected services in the area for the transportation disadvantaged,” Walters says. “What she’s done with the program there is remarkable.”

What is surprising to many is that the Bluebird Mobility Network consists almost entirely of volunteer drivers.

“To make that work and provide as many rides as (Hammond) has with volunteers doing it out of the goodness of their own hearts is truly remarkable,” Walters says. “I can’t think of any other program like it statewide.”

About 90 percent of the transportation provided is health care related, Hammond says. Medical needs are met first. Then, if there is a client who wants to visit a spouse in the hospital or an assisted living facility, Hammond works to piggyback those rides on with medical trips. One client has a husband in a VA hospital in Tampa, so the Bluebird Mobility Network takes her to visit him.

In the fiscal year 2013-2014, ElderPoint volunteers provided more than 3,500 rides to 411 clients and logged more than 64,000 miles. Volunteers have contributed more than 7,800 hours of service.

The Bluebird Mobility Network is funded in part by the Florida Department of Transportation. Recipients of these services are disabled, elderly, or people who are too impoverished to secure their own transportation.