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Partnerships with Purpose

Neighbor to Neighbor | It’s not just about the ride

The Myrtle Beach-based agency offers minimal to no-cost rides for seniors and vulnerable adults in Horry and Georgetown counties and is expanding to also cover Brunswick County, North Carolina.

AT A GLANCENeighbor to Neighbor

FOUNDED | 2005

MISSION| Promote independence, relieve isolation and connect homebound adults to their community through transportation.

LOCATION| 921 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach

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Think how you would get around our region if you were older and not able to drive.

Sure, there are cabs, but that can be costly – especially on a fixed income. The bus service? That might help on some occasions, but the routes are limited in our sprawling area.

So how will you get to your doctor’s appointments, grocery store or even to get a haircut?

Enter Neighbor to Neighbor.

The Myrtle Beach-based agency offers minimal to no-cost rides for seniors and vulnerable adults in Horry and Georgetown counties and is expanding to also cover Brunswick County, North Carolina.

But the rides provide much more than safe transportation. The conversation and camaraderie created in the car ride mean just as much for these homebound seniors who often battle the negative health and emotional effects of isolation. For some, the ride is the only human interaction they might have every week or every two weeks.

“It’s definitely more than a ride,” said Joe Kunkel, executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor. “Friendships blossom, and people grow to care about each other.”

Neighbor to Neighbor is one of more than two dozen partners in the Tidelands Community Care Network, which was created by Tidelands Health in partnership with Access Health SC and The Duke Endowment. The network is comprised of health educators, state agencies, transportation providers, primary and specialty care providers and others who can help uninsured and underinsured residents gain access to medical care.

“Neighbor to Neighbor is a vital link connecting seniors with medical care,” said Kelly Kaminski, director of community health resources for Tidelands Health. “A doctor’s appointment is of no benefit if the patient can’t get there. Neighbor to Neighbor provides essential transportation, while also providing conversation that can help stem the negative effects of isolation.”

Since 2008, Neighbor to Neighbor has provided more than 42,400 rides to more than 1,110 seniors and vulnerable adults. In its 15 years of operation, about 600 volunteers have zig-zagged across our region shuttling their new friends to pharmacies, banks, senior centers, beauty salons – anywhere a senior needs to go for life-sustaining or life-enhancing appointments or events.

One client uses the service to get to appointments to help manage his diabetes and go to the grocery store to get healthy foods aiming to get his diabetes in check. Another client in his 70s is pursuing a degree at Coastal Carolina University. His humor and lighthearted spirit are so infectious that volunteer drivers hope to get paired with him.

Those needing a ride simply contact Neighbor to Neighbor at least three days in advance, and the organization will pair the client with a volunteer driver.

The program has caught the eye of leaders and other agencies across the state. Some in other cities are considering setting up a similar program for their area.

And in 2019, Neighbor to Neighbor was named as one of 10 “Angels” by the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office for being good stewards of donations, with 86.8 percent of its expenditures going toward program services.

Neighbor to Neighbor continues to grow and explore ways to meet the demand for the services as the need increases, especially with the influx of retirees to the region.

Partnerships like those formed through the Tidelands Community Care Network can help coordinate services and provide the best overall care plan for clients.

“Together, we can have a much bigger impact,” Kunkel said.