Rides & Smiles, part of Jewish Family Service’s On the Go: Transportation Solutions for Older Adults program, is an award-winning transportation service for older adults of all religious backgrounds that began in 2004. In January 2012, the program expanded into Carmel Valley, which previously had no public transportation, and has since provided 615 rides to senior residents.
Rides & Smiles transports riders to necessary medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other life necessities in the North County Inland area, as well as northern and eastern San Diego. Rides & Smiles is the largest volunteer-based transportation service in San Diego County. Other components of the JFS On the Go program include shuttle service, organized excursions, and taxi scrip.
Expansion to Carmel Valley (and Tierrasanta) was possible due to grants from New Freedom Federal Funds and a TransNet Senior Mini Grant, which were awarded and are monitored by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
Rides & Smiles is open to people over age 60 that are mentally alert and fairly ambulatory. Riders with mobility or memory issues may still enroll if they are accompanied by a caregiver. To enroll as a rider, call (619) 220-0268.
Rides are provided by a group of 275 volunteer drivers. Ride requests are posted on a convenient, web-based scheduling system for drivers to review, allowing them to choose whom, when, and where they drive. No minimum number of rides is expected, secondary insurance is provided by JFS, and mileage is reimbursed. The average trip is 10 miles roundtrip.
Rides & Smiles always needs more volunteer drivers. Hour-long group training sessions for new volunteer drivers are held twice monthly throughout 2013. Upcoming sessions are Friday, Jan. 11, at 9 a.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m., at Jewish Family Service’s Turk Family Center at 8804 Balboa Avenue. Those unable to attend a group session can request a one-on-one training session. To volunteer as a driver, call (858) 637-3051 or go to