Missouri Volunteer Driver Network Funded Through HHS Grant

  • Author: William Wagner
  • Date: August 29, 2023

New Growth Transit (NGT) is an unusual transit program because it began operations with a grant from a Health and Human Services Agency – the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The initial HRSA planning grant was awarded in 2019. Since then, NGT has received funding from the Patterson Foundation (a private family foundation), and several medical entities who partner with NGT to support rides to their medical facilities. In 2023 NGT received a second year of funding from Missouri state appropriations. 

Operated by the West Central Missouri Community Action Agency since 2019 and powered by volunteer drivers, NGT provides transportation for mobility-challenged clients living in West Central Missouri. The service allows seniors, individuals with disabilities, and other community members with barriers to transportation to remain in their communities instead of being forced to move to more densely populated areas. Riders’ destinations include medical appointments, school, social events, and shopping. The availability of the program positively affects multiple social determinants of health in rural communities.

NGT’s volunteers use their own vehicles to provide rides and are reimbursed on a per-mile basis. Rural Missouri has limited public transit, having no public transportation options beyond the volunteer network. Riders utilizing the program frequently have no other access to specialty medical care and other essential services. It is not unusual for drivers to transport their clients to destinations one to two hours away.

“We believe in community mobility and were looking at a more holistic approach,” said Kelly Ast, NGT Chief Mobility Manager.  The NGT program is modeled on New York’s Volunteer Transportation Center (VTC). With the cooperative support of VTC, New Growth has grown exponentially. In only six months, the NGT program has expanded from 11 volunteers to 44 volunteers, who provided over almost 5,000 trips and drove 140,000 miles in that time.

Kelly Ast talking to an interviewer off screen

After months of research, VTC stood out as an effective model with great service and marketing. The user friendly technology, record of success, sheer volume of geographic, passenger and community impact really stood out. Ast says, “I actually called a few times pretending to be a rider. Each coordinator was polite and patient, proof that VTC cared about the service they provided. Our initial call with Sam Purington, Executive Director of VTC, solidified our intention to become a network similar to the model VTC had developed. We immediately began the search for funding to join their network and adopt their processes, similar to being a franchise.”


How do they recruit volunteer drivers?  

NGT recruits drivers by speaking at local civic organizations and Chamber of Commerce luncheons and by participating in health fairs. NGT staff meet regularly with community stakeholders such as local medical administrators, food pantry directors, senior citizens center staff, and even employment councils. As Kelly notes, “It is important to have a presence in the counties we serve. This role can be demanding; we will be adding two new volunteer recruiters/trainers this year.”


What’s next for NGT? 

NGT will continue to focus on building a robust network by recruiting more volunteer drivers, providing them with innovative technology, and fostering local partnerships. Most importantly, as Kelly notes, “We will remain inspired each week by our dedicated volunteer drivers and their ability to provide this service with integrity.”


For more information on New Growth Transit watch the video below or , KAst@wcmcaa.org  Chief Mobility Manager of New Growth Transportation,

For more information on the Volunteer Transportation Center contact Sam Purington, sam@volunteertransportation.org  Executive Director of Volunteer Transportation Center. 


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Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Sage Kashner (kashner@ctaa.org).

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