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Volunteer driver enjoys meeting new people, helping fill a need in Tantramar

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 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. - Katie Tower

Urban/Rural Rides in desperate need of more drivers

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

A few hours a week can make a world of difference.

Just ask Dan Matthews, who is one of a handful of volunteer drivers with the local Urban/Rural Rides, a door-to-door driving service that helps Tantramar residents get where they need to go.

“There are many people not as fortunate as me to have a vehicle,” says Matthews. “So I feel this is my way of helping somebody out.”

Matthews and his wife Leslie Gratton are both volunteer drivers who spend several hours each week shuttling area residents to and from medical appointments, for shopping needs and even to social outings.

Urban/Rural Rides, which falls under the WA Action group that covers the entire Westmorland Albert area, started up in the Tantramar area about two years ago and provides a low-cost transportation option to local residents.

Typical clients include seniors, individuals with disabilities (although they are not currently equipped to handle wheelchairs), and low-income households. The program is also accessed frequently by rural residents to reach essential services within more dense centres.

Urban/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.

Drivers can put in as much or as little time as they can fit into their lives.

“You have some options. You don’t need to be available every day,” says Matthews.

He says each driver can find “a commitment they can live with” and set their own time and parameters.

“You do what’s comfortable for you and what fits your lifestyle.”

But even an hour or two a week can be a huge help, says Matthews, because there are plenty of transportations needs in the region.

Kelly Taylor, coordinator of Rural Rides, would agree.

“More volunteers are urgently needed,” she says.

Taylor says the need for transportation continues to grow and Rural Rides is finding the demand is greater than the capacity to serve.

“So much so that, even though every effort is made to combine clients in a vehicle when possible, the demand is so high, six ride requests for transportation to medical needs had to be turned down this past week alone.”

The Tantramar area only currently has five active drivers but has 95 clients, she says.

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.

The needs also go beyond medical as many residents struggle to access basic life needs such as food, banking and other services, says Taylor. Transportation is also needed to connect residents to community programs and educational activities, particularly for those with disabilities of one form or another.

“Every little bit helps. Someone willing to do one ride a week could have helped one or more people get to their medical appointment this past week.”

Matthews is a retired meteorologist, a career that kept him on the move for most of his working years. But now that he’s settled down in the village of Dorchester, he says volunteering for groups such as Rural Rides is his way of “putting down roots a little bit and getting involved in my community.”

Matthews is also what you might call a ‘people person’ so he truly enjoys meeting new people and developing a rapport with the residents he provides transportation to.

“They feel good and that makes me feel good,” he says.

It also keeps him active every day and he is happy to do his part to help in contributing to the provincial government’s task of trying to keep seniors in their homes longer.

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

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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