Arvest Foundation helping launch new transportation service

Mar. 25—MAPS Information about or rides from MAPS can be obtained by calling 417-626-8607. It serves residents of Duquesne, Oronogo and Webb City as well as Joplin. Coupon books to pay for rides can be obtained at city halls in Joplin and Webb City. More information is also available at

A $25,000 donation from the Arvest Foundation will help launch a free transportation service in Jasper, Newton, McDonald and Barton counties.

Arvest Bank employees came to Economic Security Corp. headquarters at 302 S. Joplin Ave. on Monday to provide a check for funds needed to help ESC launch its Community Action Ride System in its four-county service area.

Ryan Peterson, chief executive officer for ESC, said transportation has come up in past community needs assessments conducted in all four counties in recent years.

"Transportation has been a top-five need, so this year, we decided we were going to try to address it," Peterson said during the check presentation in the old federal courtroom in ESC headquarters. "We know we're not going to be the end-all, be-all fix, but if we can put a dent in it and help, that's what we want to do. We've hired Cavanaugh Studyvin to come on and get this program up and running. She's done a great job of getting out there and soliciting funds."

Studyvin, the former president of the Carl Junction Chamber of Commerce who joined ESC in November 2023, said CARS will be a free, volunteer-driven transportation service. The program will seek volunteer drivers and pay them mileage to provide the rides. Anyone could obtain a free ride, regardless of income. ESC will use federal grants, state funds, business sponsorships and donations to fund the program.

"Ultimately, it's connecting residents to medical appointments, to the pharmacy, to the grocery store, to community centers and senior centers, but also to things like employment and maybe school," said Studyvin, who is now a community organizer with ESC. "This program is set to launch in May of 2024. We've modeled this program after two other agencies that were set up by community action partners just like ourselves in the state. They have this program implemented in their communities, so we have worked with them and partnered with them to figure out how it works in their community and bring that to here."

One program Studyvin said she was using as a model is called New Growth Transit LLC, a free transportation service set up by the West Central Missouri Community Action Agency to serve Vernon, Cedar and eight other counties north of those. It also is serving Barton County and Lamar until the CARS service gets up and running.

"What's unique about the program is those who are providing those rides for residents are volunteers," Studyvin said. "It is completely volunteer-driven. Volunteers will drive their own vehicles, and then Economic Security will reimburse them at the federal mileage rate. Those volunteers are giving back to their community and making that impact, but there is a little bit of reimbursement just for mileage for helping out."

Joplin's trolley system had been suspended in November 2022 because of a shortage of drivers, only increasing the need for transportation services in the area. The city has expanded the MAPS transportation system to take up some of the slack, although MAPS vehicles don't hold as many people as the trolleys.

Jacob Favergue, with Arvest Bank in Webb City, said the donation to the CARS program is the product of several banks in several communities coming together to support the cause.

"We collaborated and came together for this," Favergue said. "What a huge need in our community, so I think you guys are going to be filling that gap, and that's a tremendous benefit to those who will use it. We wish you all the success. We hope these dollars will be as impactful as possible as you launch the program and get it up and running. We really look forward to hearing the successes that come out of this."

The local United Way organization will partner with the ESC program in Missouri by providing an online sign-up for volunteers through the "Unite Us" Care Partner Network.

There will be training for the volunteers. They must have full coverage insurance. Background checks will be done on applicants, and they will have to provide proof of car insurance. There will be rules of conduct and rules of the road taught during training. The drivers will determine when they want to work and how far they are willing to travel.

A software program for transportation programs will be used to schedule the rides and drivers.