Ruby Pitzer of Myrtle Beach is one of the many seniors who depend on Neighbor to Neighbor for transportation to medical appointments and other places. She has never driven and after her husband passed away, “she was unsure what to do ... she wanted to continue to live here,” Neighbor to Neighbor executive director Joe Kunkel recalls.
Through a seniors center, Ruby Pitzer contacted Neighbor to Neighbor six years ago, and “she’s been a client since then.”
Since the program started in 2008 by Harry and Ann Campbell, Kunkel says, “we’ve had over 1,500 clients and each person has a story.” Over the years, Neighbor to Neighbor volunteers have provided 36,000 rides. Currently, Neighbor to Neighbor has over 600 active clients and over 250 volunteers. The number of clients grows by about 25 every month, Kunkel says, increasing the need for volunteers.
Drivers have flexible schedules, taking clients to primarily medical appointments, but also to grocery stores, pharmacies and senior centers. Clients may be under 59, for medical appointments only. The nonprofit provides supplemental volunteer liability insurance and donated miles and hours are tracked and may be submitted for income tax deductions.
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Kunkel is especially proud of Neighbor to Neighbor’s award earlier this year for excellence in governance and management from SCANPO, the S.C. Association of Nonprofit Organizations. The award is competitive, with a statewide review panel looking at nonprofit applications. “We had to demonstrate how we’re set apart – what made us stand out.” SCANPO makes two excellence awards, based on annual operating budgets of above or under $750,000.
Neighbor to Neighbor’s annual budget is $188,000. The nonprofit, which started as a program of GRACE Ministries, is a partner of United Way of Horry County. “We’re so thankful for United Way,” Kunkel says.
The nonprofit has an annual golf tournament fundraiser in May (golfers, make note of the 2017 date, May 6) and the next event will be the 11th. Kunkel and board members are looking at other fundraisers but “it’s tough putting on fundraisers,” as anyone involved in nonprofits, or service organizations, will attest.
Kunkel, originally from Baltimore, works with seniors because of his grandparents, a major influence in his life. Kunkel earned a masters degree at the University of South Carolina then worked in Central Midlands Council of Government and the S.C. Lieutenant Governor Office of Aging. He came to Neighbor to Neighbor in 2013 when Kathy Jenkins moved to New Directions.
Like most nonprofits, Neighbor to Neighbor runs on volunteers, answering phones in the Myrtle Beach office and serving on committees as well as transporting seniors. Farrah Dickerson, Sharon Roberson and Kunkel were back in the office Monday, after remotely checking messages during the hurricane evacuation.
Neighbor to Neighbor, a nonprofit providing transportation for seniors, needs volunteers to drive clients to appointments, answer phones in the office and serve on committees.
To volunteer, make a financial contribution, or for more information, contact Neighbor to Neighbor, 921 N. Kings Hwy., Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
P.O. Box 3030, Myrtle Beach, SC 29578
Phone | 843-839-0702
Online | www.gracefullyaging.org
Free Rides: 6,052
Miles Driven: 90,101
Hours of Service: 6,023