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Nonprofits do a tremendous amount of good work in the Napa Valley, but they can accomplish even more when they team up.

That’s one of the lessons of a new collaborative effort among the St. Helena Hospital Foundation, Molly’s Angels and Rianda House that’s helping underserved seniors get to their medical appointments.

Under a $5,000 pilot project funded by the hospital foundation, seniors who need a ride to a medical appointment at St. Helena Hospital or one of the local Adventist Health clinics can call Molly’s Angels – a nonprofit that specializes in senior transportation – and get a free ride either from a volunteer or through the Lyft ride-sharing service.

The Lyft option was added in July to address a gap in transportation services that began in 2013 when the St. Helena shuttle switched from a regular route that included a stop at the hospital to an on-demand model that doesn’t offer service to the hospital.

Only three people had been using the hospital stop, and it would have cost the city of St. Helena $19,000 for a second shuttle to accommodate them, Rianda House Executive Director Julie Spencer told us.

Rianda House raised the alarm through an Upvalley senior collaborative and got the attention of Nicole Pfister of Molly’s Angels and Susan Dix Lyons of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation.

Lyons got ahold of Lyft and set up the program through a special platform Lyft established to broaden seniors’ access to health care. Lyft drivers undergo background checks and are compliant with federal HIPAA regulations that protect patients’ privacy.

At more than $40 for a one-way trip from Napa to St. Helena Hospital, the rides aren’t cheap for the foundation, but they’re extremely helpful.

Seniors get a free ride to their appointment, easier access to health care and, in the long run, a greater quality of life. Their family members don’t have to take time off work to give their relative a ride. Doctors don’t have to lose valuable time to missed appointments because their patients can’t find a ride. And Molly’s Angels volunteers – about 65 in all, including about 10 Upvalley – are freed up to give rides to other seniors.

Rianda House has its finger on the pulse of the senior community, so kudos to them for identifying the problem and helping find a solution. We applaud Molly’s Angels for adding Lyft to its scheduling system.

Our biggest thanks goes to the St. Helena Hospital Foundation for putting up the money. The $5,000 might not last long, but we hope it’s the first step toward a permanent program that might eventually extend to other health care providers like Ole Health and Kaiser.

If you or a senior you know could use this service, call Molly’s Angels at 224-8971 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Rides are available to St. Helena Hospital, the Martin O’Neal Cancer Center, the Vermeil Clinic in Calistoga, the Adventist Heart Institute on Adams Street, the Adventist Health offices on Inglewood Avenue, and St. Helena Medical Orthopedics on Railroad Avenue.

Thank you, St. Helena Hospital Foundation, Molly’s Angels and Rianda House, for reminding us that great things happen when we work together.

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The Star editorial board consists of editors David Stoneberg and Sean Scully and community volunteers Norma Ferriz, Christopher Hill, Shannon Kuleto, Bonnie Long, Peter McCrea, Gail Showley and Dave Yewell.

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