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Rural Rides in desperate need of volunteer drivers in Tantramar area

Dan Matthews of Dorchester is one of a handful of volunteer drivers with Urban/Rural Rides in the Tantramar region. The group is on the lookout for more drivers to help fill the transportation needs of area residents.
Dan Matthews of Dorchester is one of a handful of volunteer drivers with Rural Rides in the Tantramar region. The group is on the lookout for more drivers to help fill the transportation needs of area residents. - Katie Tower

Growth of transportation service results in waiting list

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

A few hours a week can make a world of difference. And Rural Rides is hoping there are residents in the Tantramar region who can spare some of their time to help out.

Kelly Taylor, coordinator of Rural Rides, said the door-to-door transportation service that serves the area is in desperate need of volunteer drivers.

Taylor said since Rural Rides was established in Sackville a little over two years ago, its growth has continued to balloon. So much so that the demand has become greater than the capacity to serve, she said.

“The growth is amazing,” she told members of town council during their recent budget deliberation meeting. “We’re doing on average 100 rides a month in Tantramar alone. We have a waiting list of clients waiting for services.”

Taylor said Rural Rides is having to turn down ride requests because there is simply not enough drivers – in the past two months alone, it has had to turn away 10 drives to medical appointments.

“We need volunteers,” she said. “So if you know anybody that’s got a few hours a month, a few hours a week, one day a month, please send them our way.”

Taylor explained that Rural Rides is a “volunteer-driven transportation program that fills the gap in our communities to provide affordable transportation to seniors, low-income individuals and people with disabilities to access health care, medical appointments, food bank trips, shopping, and other basic life needs.”

If there were more volunteers, she said rides could also be accessed for recreational activities, education, work training programs and “anything that enhances the quality of life and reduces isolation for people in our community.”

The Tantramar area only currently has five active drivers but has about 90 clients.

“We’re doubling up and ride sharing as much as possible,” she said. “We’re trying to get as many people to the hospitals as we can. But we just can’t keep up.”

The local Rural Rides service provided a total of 332 rides during the 2018 fiscal year. This year, only five months into the new fiscal year, it has already offered 422 rides.

Rural Rides co-ordinates the volunteer drivers to pick up clients who have reserved a drive a minimum of 48 hours in advance. The volunteer driver will pick up clients at their door, take them to their appointment/destination and return them home.

Volunteer drivers supply their own vehicle but are reimbursed for fuel expenses and any supplemental liability insurance required.

Requests can range from trips to dialysis, chemotherapy and other medical treatments, as well as to the hospitals for visits to specialists, tests and surgeries.

“Our drivers are the most wonderful people on the planet. They are volunteers, they give their time generously, they very rarely say no . . .” said Taylor.

Rural Rides, which falls under the WA Transpo group that covers the entire Westmorland Albert area, started up as a pilot in the Tantramar area about two years ago and provides a low-cost transportation option to local residents. The service expanded full-time into the area in 2018 and also now serves the Memramcook, Shediac, Cap Pele and Beaubassin areas.

Taylor said unfortunately the group is short on funding this year because it missed the grant deadline from the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation (ESIC), one of its major funders. The group did receive a small grant from United Way so although this year will be a challenging one, Taylor said Rural Rides is confident it will be able to hang on until the next round of grants.

But in the meantime, she said it would be beneficial if municipalities would consider increasing their funding to Rural Rides this year.

“We are having a really important impact on people’s lives.”

To volunteer a few hours a week or more, contact Kelly Taylor at 215-2100 or visit http://www.watranspo.org for more information.

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