San Antonio-based VIA Metropolitan Transit’s growing volunteer program, VIA Cares, is redefining the agency’s mission to “connect the community,” with over 1,200 service hours contributed to assist neighbors in need and put resources and opportunities within reach.
VIA employees have supported more than 50 events since 2020, when the program was established as part of VIA’s COVID response plan.
In 2020, as food insecurity rose and financial hardships deepened, VIA partnered with the San Antonio Food Bank to deliver thousands of meals to seniors and homebound residents, and help sort, package, and dispense food at emergency food distribution sites.
Recognizing the need for reliable Wi-Fi for students suddenly learning remotely, VIA partnered with area school districts and the San Antonio Housing Authority to use available Wi-Fi equipped vehicles to bridge the gap for students and families trapped in the digital divide. It became a model for communities nationwide that lacked sufficient digital access. Throughout the height of the pandemic, VIA continued to provide safe, reliable transportation options, including free fares to persons who were unemployed or traveling to job training and COVID vaccination sites.
And, with hundreds of community service hours completed, thousands of meals delivered, countless complimentary trips for those seeking work, and more, the message was clear: VIA cares about the community and is an essential part of it.
Nearly three years since the program began, VIA ridership is growing, the city is bustling again, and VIA Cares is thriving. Community partners continue to reach out to VIA for volunteer opportunities, including the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, Morgan’s Wonderland, San Antonio Food Bank, and the Salvation Army. The VIA Cares program has even given birth to a new Fiesta tradition. Volunteers with the most hours completed each year will be crowned VIA’s Fiesta King and Queen.
“Throughout its history and especially during times of crisis, VIA connects people to critical resources through community service as well as public transit service,” VIA’s President/CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt said. “The VIA Cares volunteer program helped expand VIA’s role as a key partner in local relief and recovery efforts and, just like the name suggests, shows how VIA cares about the community we serve.”