Transportation is one of the biggest needs among senior citizens in the Cedar Park, Leander and Northwest Austin area, said Carla Young, executive director for Drive a Senior Northwest. The nonprofit pairs volunteer drivers with senior citizens who can no longer drive.

Since the organization began in 1986, Young said it has gone from giving 28 rides its first year to around 8,000 rides a year now.

“In this particular area, people moved out here 30 years ago to retire or to be closer to family, and now they’re aging,” Young said. “Plus we have a lot of families that are moving their parents here. ... There’s not any public transportation up here for those [who] could use [it].”

Drive a Senior Northwest provides rides for people age 60 and older in a 125-square-mile service area, which includes Cedar Park, most of Leander and places north of Loop 360 in Northwest Austin such as Great Hills, Steiner Ranch and River Place. Seniors who sign up with the nonprofit can take up to two roundtrips each week. A group of around 350 volunteers then chooses which trips they want to take using an online platform. The organization receives funding from a variety of community members, including local congregations and the city of Cedar Park.

David Gibbs has volunteered with the group for the last nine years, giving more than 2,300 rides, according to Young.

“[The nonprofit] fills a gap in the senior services,” he said. “I’m happy to help out until I need to call them and have somebody pick me up.”

As a driver, Gibbs said he commonly takes clients to the doctor for medical appointments and to H-E-B and Walmart to pick up groceries.

On a Wednesday in April, he took Marcia Gomez to one of her regular physical therapy appointments at Cedar Park Regional Medical Center. Gomez, who suffers from vertigo, moved to Cedar Park from Spain about nine months ago to live with her daughter. While her daughter is at work, Gomez does not have anyone to take her to her appointments, nor can she afford the extra expense to pay for rides, she said. Gomez said she was glad to find out about this service.

“The volunteers are so nice and on time,” Gomez said. “They are always thinking of you. ... I’m absolutely thankful, I really am.”

In the car, Gomez and Gibbs chatted about the weather, what their children and grandchildren have been up to and different places they have lived.

“The drivers really develop those relationships with clients,” Young said. “You never know who you are going to meet.”

In addition to offering car rides, Drive a Senior Northwest volunteers complete minor home repairs. The organization also has a medical equipment loan closet, allowing clients to borrow items such as walkers and shower benches. Twice a month, the nonprofit hosts a Senior Day Out event, during which seniors play games and share a meal together at Anderson Mill Baptist Church.

“Some have been coming for 20 years,” Young said. “It’s so important for the mental health of our seniors to have that social connection.”