Neighbors helping neighbors

Neighbors helping neighborsBarbara Schwartz and Don Murch are board members and volunteers with Northern Tioga Neighbors Network. (Provided Photo)
Neighbors helping neighbors

Barbara Schwartz and Don Murch are board members and volunteers with Northern Tioga Neighbors Network. (Provided Photo)

For the past two decades, Northern Tioga Neighbors Network (NTNN) has helped the residents of Berkshire, Richford, and Newark Valley become better neighbors. The non-profit organization was founded to help northern Tioga County residents without transportation get where they need to go.

John Schwartz, board president, said, “Basically the main thing that we do is to provide rides for people who can’t get rides to medical appointments or for food or prescriptions.” Last year, NTNN clocked more than 850 volunteer hours getting people to more than 350 appointments and errands.

Although the free service is utilized mainly by seniors, Schwartz explained that it is available to anyone; there is no lower age limit. However, he said, “We don’t transport children because of the issue of car seats.” Not all of NTNN’s volunteer drivers have cars equipped with car seats. Another criteria for prospective riders is that, due to liability issues, they must be able to get in and out of the car by themselves.

In order to arrange a ride, interested individuals can call (607) 657-2823 at least three days in advance of the ride they’d like to schedule.

The group’s corps of volunteers, which Schwartz said includes a total of about 50 drivers, 10 to 20 of whom are particularly active, provides all the rides.

Given the number of rides those volunteers are asked to provide every year, Cathy Kuntzleman, NTNN’s administrative coordinator, said the group is always in need of more drivers. “A big thing is we’re in need of volunteers,” she said.

The main requirement to volunteer as an NTNN driver is that you must have a valid drivers’ license. Also, Kuntzleman said, “We interview people before we take them on as volunteers.”

In addition to drivers, NTNN is looking for prospective board members, especially those with the skills to help with the annual audit.

NTNN was founded two decades ago, based out of the Richford Congregational Church. As the group grew and changed, they eventually got their own non-profit status and moved into a space in the Hubbard Center in Richford.

In addition to rides, the group offers help with certain light household chores like raking leaves. Schwartz added, “Also, if people would just like a friendly phone call from time to time, we can arrange for that as well.

Schwartz spoke about the rewards of volunteering with NTNN, stating, “You’re part of making the community a better place.”

Kuntzleman added, “It’s neighbors helping neighbors.”