West Central’s solution to limited rural transportation

Thom Reece is a 77-year-old veteran who does not drive and does not have a vehicle of his own. Getting everyday shopping done, or traveling to medical appointments, is a big deal without transportation options in and around his rural community of Appleton City.  

Mr. Reece is not alone. Rural residents, young and old, and of every income, are limited in what they can do because alternative transportation is largely not available.  

A new resource is emerging, however, to help rural residents overcome this challenge.  

Rides to Health & Wealth is a project that West Central Missouri Community Action Agency and area partners are now building to organize ride resources and connect local people with themOptions include a growing network of volunteer drivers that West Central is organizing and supporting through the Missouri Rural Health Association collaboration.  

Short distance. Large Hurdle. 

Mr. Reece’s attempts to get to Veterans Administration (VA) medical services in Kansas City shows that a gap in transportation can cause large problems and additional costs.  

The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization provides a free shuttle from Joplin to medical services in Kansas City with stops along Interstate 49But getting to that shuttle involves getting to a shuttle stop in Butler, MO, which is a 20-mile trip from Mr. Reece’s home in Appleton City.  

Making sure people like Mr. Reece make it to medical appointments is not only good for their health creates more overall health equity. Retirees living long and healthy lives adds more cultural influences and local spending to the economy. Avoiding health complications by getting medical care is also essential to reducing health complications and higher-cost of care.  

That is a one of the reasons that area healthcare organizations have also begun working with Rides to Health and Wealth to get people to appointments. Both Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare and Katy Trail Community Health are using the service to assist patients in their Henry, Morgan, and Benton County service areas. 

Ready to Roll 

West Central began in January 2021 coordinating rides for rural residents through Rides to Health and Wealth 

I could not have made it for my appointments if West Central had not coordinated the ride,” Mr. Reece said. It helps cover the gaps when friends and a small number of relatives in the area are not availableThe need for transportation is no secret in rural Missouri, this model offers solutions that fill the gaps.  


For more information on Rides to Health and Wealth services, or if you or someone you know would like to be a volunteer driver, please contact:  

Kenney Hutchison, CCAP the Regional Mobility Coordinator at 417-283-7991 or by email at khutchison@wcmcaa.org 

Kelly J. AstCommunity Services Director at 660-476-2185 or by email at kast@wcmcaa.org