A three- or four-block walk to a grocery store is not a problem for most people. But to an 80-year-old with a cane the trip, even without packages, wind or ice, can be a grueling journey. Sister Rachel Marie Burkholder of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, on Woodley Road NW, was aware of the large number of senior citizens with this problem, in the Connecticut-Cathedral Avenue area. She took the problem to the Jewish Council for the Aging in Rockville. "She came to us to see if we could meet these senior citizens' needs," said Gay Gooen, council transportation director. "So we started a shopping shuttle pilot program last summer funded by the United Jewish Appeal." In October the D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission allocated $3,200 for the shuttle bus project. Now two 13-passenger shopping shuttles operate every Thursday along Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues between Calvert Street and the Van Ness area. The senior citizens and handicapped passengers are picked up at their apartment lobbies or locations nearby and stops are made at super markets. When necessary, the bus driver or an escort helps passengers on and off the bus with packages. Those who can afford it make a 50-cent donation for the round trip. The access steps are lower to the ground and buses are equipped with seat belts and a wheelchair lift. However, the buses' low ceilings have caused many passengers to bump their heads, despite signs and warnings from other passengers. Approximately 13 passengers ride the Connecticut Avenue shuttle each Thursday, Gooen said, and 9 or 10 ride the Wisconsin Avenue shuttle. Another shuttle sponsored by the council operates three times weekly in Rockville, and carries about 48 people to shopping destinations on Wednesdays alone, Gooen said. "Before this shuttle, I used to walk to the supermarket," said Elaine Trimble, 80, "but I wasn't as crippled as I am now. If you need a came to walk you can't carry heavy packages. It was difficult to get on the (Metro) bus teps and just as hard to get off again. Carrying my grtoceries, I couldn't manage the distance between the bus stop and my building." "It was particularly difficut for me because I have a problem with my eyes and heart," said Nadia Ball, 73, "I can't carry heavy things, so I used to have groceries delivered from a very expensive store," she said. "For a person who lives on a budget, it's too expensive." Marie Allen, who would not give her age, sad she used to walk to the supermarket or take a bus. "But in the mornings the bus was so crowded I'd have to stand sometimes. I walk with a cane and my hip is very painful. I found out about the shopping shuttle about a month ago and I've been riding it every Thursday. "I probably could have groceries delivered," she said, but that's too expensive and I'm old-fashioned enough that I like to go and collect my own." Some of the passengers and one bus driver are surprised that more elderly persons are not using the shuttle. Gooen expected a better turnout too, she said, "but I think we're going to see an amazing change. If it's his cold next Thursday, I'll bet the bus will be jammed." "So far I think we haven't been reaching the people. Many of them remain isolated in their apartments, so how can we reach them? "My personal goal here," Gooen said, "is to help older adults meet their basic needs and live with dignity." If the Washington shopping shuttle is successful and funding is provided, "we would like to expand services to include trips to the library, post office and laundromat as we're already doing for senior citizens in Rockville," Gooen said. "But first, I would like to see the shuttle so packed that we have to go into the District and ask them to fund more vehicles. I think the need is there."