Despite his decade of experience as a medical technician, Thomas Mathew cites a more personal inspiration for starting Ride With Class Transport, a service that provides non-emergency transportation to those in wheelchairs.
"When my mom was sick, transportation was a big thing," said Mathew, from Dade City. "How could we take her from place to place with her wheelchair? I've been waiting for years to do something like this."
Inspired by his mother's health and transportation struggles, Mathew became committed to assisting people of any age facing mobility challenges to help move about independently for as long as possible.
Serving Pasco, Hernando and Polk counties, Ride With Class uses wheelchair-accessible vans for non-emergency trips to doctor appointments, medical treatments and other everyday destinations. Vans come with an ADA-approved wheelchair, chair-securing devices, rear heater/air conditioner vents, ramps and fire extinguishers, and additional rear seating for nurses and family members. Its services are covered by medical transportation insurance.
"Our mission is to provide courteous, compassionate and dependable on-time service for individuals who need wheelchair and ambulatory transportation," reads the business' mission statement.
Started last year and originally based in Wesley Chapel, Ride With Class is now at 36739 State Road 52 in Dade City. Its fleet of vans completes five or six transports per day.
Customer Roy Mathew (no relation to Thomas Mathew) said Ride With Class lives up to its mission. The service transported his aunt to Florida Hospital Zephyrhills for dialysis.
"Her driver was very punctual and kind, and her ride was very comfortable," he said. "It was a good experience."
The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Drivers have completed the Passenger Assistance Safety and Sensitivity Trainer and Driver Certification program, which educates drivers in assisting passengers with disabilities. Drivers are screened, CPR and first aid certified, and prompt, according to Thomas Mathew.
"When someone is sick, you don't want to keep them waiting," he said.
The majority of his clients are patients recently discharged from hospitals, and those going to and from medical treatments such as dialysis and radiology. He also serves passengers who need rides to outpatient surgery, adult day care, rehabilitation facilities, social gatherings and the airport.
"Transportation is a barrier for many seniors who need to get to medical appointments, go food shopping and perform other activities of daily living outside the home," said Ann Marie Winter, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas. "With the projected number of seniors that are expected to move to Pasco County by 2030, more non-emergency transportation will inevitably be needed."
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With clients ranging in age from 41 to 91, Thomas Mathew's mission remains the same.
"I like making people happy," he said. "I like helping people."