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November 17, 2011 (La Mesa) -- In October, Catherine Hill of the League of California Cities presented the City of La Mesa with a 2011 Helen Putnam Award for the highly successful Rides4Neighbors transportation program. Helen Putnam was active with the League of California Cities. Throughout her life as a mother, teacher, principal, mayor, and county supervisor, she viewed meeting one’s potential as the greatest measure of success.

To the League and to all the cities in California she defined excellence and the highly competitive award named in her honor recognizes excellence in local government projects each year.


Rides4Neighbors is a multi-pronged approach to flexible transportation options for senior adults and disabled residents of La Mesa and neighboring east county communities. Community Services Department staff recruits, screens, and trains volunteer drivers who use their own vehicles to accommodate eligible riders. Rides are provided for medical, dental, essential shopping, and personal care appointments.

To supplement volunteer driver rides, approved riders may purchase taxi coupon booklets at a 50% discount. Coupons are used “same as cash” with Yellow Cab. Additionally, a twice weekly shopping shuttle, provided by contract with La Mesa First United Methodist Church, provides door-to-door service from riders’ homes to the local mall.

During the last year a wheelchair transport program for non-ambulatory riders was added to the program. Also during the last year a Travel Training program was added for adults 60+ who need assistance learning to navigate public transportation. The Trainer provides instructions to her students on how to utilize web-based public transportation schedules and routes and accompanies them on weekly excursions throughout San Diego county.

Rides4Neighbors was launched in 2007 with federal and local transportation grant funding obtained through the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).  SANDAG funding was extended in a subsequent year with a local grant from the Grossmont Healthcare District that provided for extensive community outreach and partnership development to expand the program.

The 2011 Helen Putnam Award was the third time La Mesa has received this honor. Previous Helen Putnam Awards were received for the City’s “ready…set…Live Well” community wellness initiative and The Parks Project involving development of the Junior Seau Sports Complex and renovation of Briercrest Park.


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