HAT quietly gets the job done for area residents

Alysia Hindle is one of 14 drivers who work for Huntington Area Transportation (HAT), which provides transportation throughout Huntington County.
Alysia Hindle is one of 14 drivers who work for Huntington Area Transportation (HAT), which provides transportation throughout Huntington County. Photo provided.

Seat belts are a must if you want to ride with Alysia Hindle.

Hindle is one of the 14 drivers that Huntington Area Transportation hires. HAT is one of the many programs offered by the Huntington County Council on Aging.

Holly Saunders, executive director of the Council on Aging, explains that HAT drivers hold a special license and are trained annually.

"When you first start driving, you're with somebody for a week to learn the paperwork," Hindle says. "And then, the next week, you're driving with somebody before you go by yourself."

Robin Bolkovatz, 47, is a native of Pigeon Forge, TN. She moved to Huntington three months ago and since then has relied on the services provided by HAT.

"They are really great," Bolkovatz says. "I get very
scared when I am in the passenger's seat, but I don't get scared with these drivers."

All rides must be scheduled 24 hours prior to the appointment. A one-way ride in town on a HAT van costs $2. A ride outside the city of Huntington County is between $3 and $4.

"Anything that is out of Huntington County has to be a medical trip," Hindle says.

People 60 and older, however, do not have to pay. Yet many of them decide to buy a $20 ticket, which has a $25 value, as a donation to the program.

Besides people 60 and older, those under the Medicaid program are also exempt from the ticket fees because Medicaid covers transportation.

Most of the HAT vans are equipped with an automatic lift to facilitate the travel for people with disabilities.

Since 2001, HAT's service has shifted from senior transportation to public transportation. This has increased the number of passengers on the vans.

"I have picked up 32 people just in one day," Hindle says.

Saunders is rewarded by the knowledge that through this program, the Council on Aging is helping people who otherwise could not obtain a ride.

She states that the biggest challenge is "finding the appropriate funding sources and making sure that the money is funneled properly."

One of the funding sources Council on Aging relies on is United Way.

Pat Horoho, executive director of United Way of Huntington County, explains that through United Way, the HAT program receives funding to specifically aid Senior Citizens.

"Council on Aging has been a great benefit to the residents of Huntington County," Horoho says. "We value the work of the HAT program to make transportation available to older adults.

HAT may be contacted Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For reservations, call 356-3006 or 1-800-491-3006.

Gloria Bonilla is a public relations major at Huntington University. She is from Honduras and is currently interning with the United Way.