With efforts to draw public transportation to Picture Rocks stalled, and immobile elderly residents in need of help, neighbors are taking matters into their own hands.

Concerned residents have started Picture Rocks Neighbors Helping Neighbors, an all-volunteer nonprofit group dedicated to helping those in need. The group plans to start offering rides, help with chores and companionship, and will also provide breaks for caregivers to rest or take care of personal business.

Picture Rocks is an unincorporated community near Saguaro National Park West and North Sandario Road.

The Pima Council on Aging has helped train the group’s volunteers, and thanks to the group’s state nonprofit status, the Regional Transportation Authority is reimbursing volunteers’ mileage. The Neighbors Care Alliance has also supported the group.

Program coordinator Mary Salgado said the program will be something like a formalized version of a tightknit neighborhood in which members go out of their way to fill each others’ needs.

“It started because people in the community wanted it,” she said. “The issue is a biggie out here because we have no public transportation. We have elderly people who aren’t able to drive and live alone. There are two things we want to start right away: Friendly phone calls to check in on people and transportation for shopping, going to the doctor or running other kinds of errands.”

Eleven volunteers have signed up, and other community groups, such as Marana High School’s National Honor Society, have offered to pitch in. The Picture Rocks Senior Group provided the $30 Arizona Corporation Commission nonprofit-status application fee.

Salgado said it will be difficult to keep up with demand for the services.

“We have a high concentration of veterans and single, elderly people,” she said. “It’s pretty cheap to live out here, and we have a lot of people at or below the poverty level.”

Picture Rocks social advocate Dot Esler, who has tried to bring public transportation to the area, has helped the organization get on its feet.

“We’re looking at it as part of a comprehensive transportation plan,” she said. “We’re hoping to build a sense of community and be able to get people access to services they need, and hopefully allow them to stay in the community without having to move into town.”

Salgado said she hopes Neighbors Helping Neighbors makes tough lives easier.

“We want to foster a sense of community between young people and older people,” she said. “We’ll help elderly people with their housework or do their yardwork. Our main goal is to help residents live independently in their homes as long as possible.”

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com