MEDFORD – Two residents have started Medford Saving Lives, a nonprofit community-based foundation, to get residents home safely from bars and restaurants after a night out of drinking.
It’s modeled after the successful Evesham Saving Lives program, which eventually expanded to include Voorhees as well.
Medford Saving Lives has formed a partnership with ride-sharing service Lyft, which will provide free rides for residents home from 17 bars and restaurants in Medford and Medford Lakes from the hours of 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
To start, the rides are offered now through May 1, 2019 with Lyft offering free ride credits up to $15.
Medford residents Gail Cataldi and her next-door neighbor Tom DePaulis founded the Medford Saving Lives program.
“We went to Chickie’s & Pete’s grand opening in (Marlton),” said Cataldi, whose husband is sports radio personality Angelo Cataldi. “One of my son’s friends was there and he was calling an Uber to get a ride back to Marlton for free. We were like ‘what the heck is this?’ My neighbor Tom said to me, ‘why can’t we do something like this for Medford? This is a great service.’ So we looked into it.
“I did have a meeting with (Evesham Mayor) Randy Brown to see exactly what we need to do to get it off the ground.”
Cataldi and DePaulis are asking local businesses and individuals for donations to sponsor the program.
“We started this foundation in order to fight drunk driving on the local level,” the Medford Saving Lives Facebook page said. “Evesham and Voorhees have had this service for a few years with much success and have observed a decline in the DWI arrests in their townships. We are not promoting excessive drinking. We are promoting not driving after drinking.”
Cataldi said they thought Uber was initially on board, but when that didn't work out she and DePaulis both thought the project was dead.
But it wasn't.
Bob Wagner, who owns Braddock’s Tavern and Ott’s in Medford, Berlin and Washington Township, called Cataldi one day and said that state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, wanted to have a meeting and that he had a contact at Lyft.
“We went to the meeting, a lot of people from Lyft corporate were there,” she said. “From that point on, Lyft bent over backward for us.
“We only put like a six-month timeframe on it. We expect it to go a lot longer than that. We just want a little bit of an out just in case. We plan to branch out to neighboring towns.”
Lyft New Jersey General Manager Ann Ferracane is pleased to form the partnership.
“As an active member of the New Jersey community, we strive to create and foster strong partnerships with local organizations that are making a positive impact on New Jersey residents. Lyft is proud to partner with Medford Saving Lives to ensure its residents have an alternative option to get home in a smart and reliable manner,” she said in a release.
To catch a ride, residents should open the Lyft app on their smartphone and enter their home address as a destination.
"If it’s within Medford’s geo-fence, it’ll say, ‘oh you’re in, Medford use the Code MS Lives for $15 off your ride’ which should easily cover the longest distance," Cataldi said.
The rides will be available from Medford or Medford Lakes bars and restaurants including: Flying W Airport, Luce, Braddock’s Tavern, Jackson Stokes, Ott’s, P.J. Whelihan’s, Tacos El Tio, Nale House Brewing Co., Lower Forge Brewery, Illiano Cucina, ITA101, Femmina Italian Grill, Zinc Café, Riviera, Tarantella, Cielito Lindo, and VFW.
“If we could prevent one impaired driving related incident with this program, it would be worth the time and investment tenfold,” Gail Cataldi said.