Community-Based Organization: Helping Our Women (HOW) | Provincetown, MA

Contact: Nancy Lynch, Executive Director |

The Outer Cape Cod area in Massachusetts consists of a series of four small towns located in a remote, rural, and medically underserved area. Coordinating transportation to and from necessary medical care is burdensome for many residents. The most remote town, Provincetown, is 50 miles from the closest hospital. Many people living with life-threatening and chronic medical conditions must travel even further to Boston to receive specialized treatment. Helping Our Women (HOW), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, offers free transportation services for women diagnosed with serious conditions in order to enable them access to health care services and enhance their wellbeing through the duration of their illness.

For qualifying women, HOW offers the following transportation services:

  • Volunteer-driver program: Approximately 20 volunteer drivers transport clients to and from local medical appointments on Cape Cod. The volunteer base is largely comprised of retirees or young seniors. All volunteers sign a liability release and confidentiality forms and agree to use their own vehicles for client transport. HOW carries a liability policy that covers staff, board, and volunteers. Ongoing volunteer training is informal and provided on an as needed basis.
  • Collaboration with the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA): For specialized medical treatment in Boston, HOW will arrange and pay for clients to take the Boston Hospital Transportation (BHT) operated by CCRTA.
  • Collaboration with Cape Air: If the client is not physically capable of enduring the day-long trip to Boston via the BHT, then HOW will elect to use an airline ticket provided courtesy of Cape Air. Since 1995, Cape Air has donated $225,000 worth of tickets to HOW.

Over 50% of HOW’s clients are elderly women, often living with multiple illnesses and limited financial resources. Many of the women are struggling to pay for regular household expenses such as heat, food, and other daily needs. Arranging and paying for transportation to medical appointments can be difficult and sometimes impossible. Without transportation services provided by HOW, these women are more likely to miss appointments or fail to comply with their medical treatment.

In 2012, HOW carried an average caseload of 200 clients. HOW primarily relies on two full-time employees, including the Executive Director and the Office Administrator/Client Advocate, to manage the caseload. In addition to the two full-time staff members, two licensed mental health professionals are contracted to facilitate the weekly support groups and a part-time driver is available for client transport as needed.

HOW is funded by a combination of foundation grants, fundraiser proceeds, private donations, and Human Services Grants through annual Request for Proposals (RFPs) issued by the four towns within HOW’s service area. HOW does not receive state or federal grant funding. The transportation program receives a portion of their funding from Cape Cod Healthcare, the parent organization to Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital, which covers $7000 for direct costs and five hours a week of staff time.

This transportation model has been successful for more than 15 years because it is flexible and allows clients to make informed decisions about where and when to receive medical care without having to worry about how they will get to appointments. HOW’s services are well-known by local primary care providers. Referrals for services often come from these local providers and the local Visiting Nurse Association. The success of the transportation model is also based on collaboration with all of the client’s providers, including specialists to ensure that appointments for check-ups, diagnostics, and treatments are attended, as well as with community partners and other local businesses.

HOP Tip: For organizations and programs that rely on volunteers, ensuring that volunteers feel supported and appreciated is often key to retention. For example, HOW takes opportunities to recognize the volunteers at public meetings and provides small tokens of gratitude like certificates, tire gauges, and roadside kits. HOW thanks and honors the volunteers whenever possible and provides them opportunities to give testimonials and share their experiences with others.

This publication was made possible by grant number U30CS09743 from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HRSA.