You Should Know… Emily Braley

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Photo courtesy of Emily Braley

Since 2021, Emily Braley has been manager of the volunteer transportation network NV Rides, a partner organization of the Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.

Braley, 34, is responsible for coordinating the network’s partnerships and communicating with them. But before that, she spent 10 years working as a nurse in Palo Alto, Calif., managing a rare disease program.

She and her family live in Vienna and are members of Congregation Olam Tikvah in Fairfax.

What kind of transportation does NV Rides provide?

So we are an umbrella organization. The volunteers volunteer for each partner organization. Our partners provide rides mostly for medical purposes, but you have to be independent. So it’s not like the classic medical transportation you would think of, like a wheelchair van. It’s people in private vehicles, helping each other get to medical appointments. About 80% of our rides are medical. The other 20% would be things like groceries, social events, religious services. You need to get out of the house. So it’s varied and it all depends on where people are and what the volunteers are doing.

How did NV Rides get involved with the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia?

In 2014, the Long Term Care Coordinating Council in Fairfax County was looking at the big issue of senior transportation in the county. We’re not that well-connected to public transportation here, where people could get everywhere they need to go. And they started looking at volunteer transportation as a solution. So they partnered with the JCC and the Jewish Council for Aging out of Rockville to start this program that supports volunteer transportation programs. We increase capacity, we provide funding, we provide the best practices, advertising, recruitment, background checks and all the things that volunteer transportation programs need to run. They need us to support them.

So we kind of became the central hub at the JCC, but we work with 16 partners throughout the area from different faith traditions, different regions. We have synagogues, mosques, community organizations and villages.

How do you specifically serve the Jewish community?

We have J Rides at the Pozez Jewish Community Center, which serves people who want rides to and from there for social events, games, lectures, that kind of thing. And then we also work with Agudas Achim in Alexandria. They’re one of our partners. They use our software, our background checks and they actually provide rides, usually to and from shul. But they also do some medical and some grocery runs for their members as well.

You have a background as a nurse. Tell me more about that.

When I first graduated, I worked in the ICU at University of Virginia Health System, which is in Charlottesville, and then I ended up moving to California. I worked in an ICU at a community hospital there and then eventually got my master’s in nursing at San Francisco State University and worked at Stanford healthcare. It’s associated with Stanford University, in Palo Alto, and I worked as a nurse in their heart failure program. I also managed a rare disease program alongside some physicians, studying sarcoidosis. It’s a rare disease that affects lots of different organs. After that, I ended up going to work in California, managing Medicaid in their case management.

And I just set up a lot of medical transportation and that led me to kind of learning about it and about transportation challenges seniors have. I worked a lot with people who had pretty complicated transportation needs.

So when I moved back here and saw the NV Rides job, I was like, “That is something I could do. It’s something I have a lot of experience in.”

And it was an exciting opportunity for me to not only work at the JCC where my kids go to school, but to have an impact beyond the walls of the JCC. We work in all four counties in Northern Virginia. We do thousands of rides per year.

Outside of your work, do you have any hobbies?

I am pretty busy. I have three kids under 4. But in my spare time. I have studied Yiddish a lot. I find that really rewarding. I’m a big reader and I’m a history buff for sure. ■

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