Agency gets $50K grant to offer more rides to seniors
In less than a decade, the number of rides offered has increased 330 per cent
A community agency in Waterloo region will use a new $50,000 grant to offer more rides to seniors who need a little bit of help getting to such places as the grocery store, the doctor's office and the shopping mall.
Community Support Connections— Meals on Wheels and More said the grant means it will be able to expand its transportation services on weekday evenings and weekends. It received the grant from the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, a charitable organization.
Rosalind Horne, director of engagement and responsiveness for the agency, said Thursday it is "thrilled" that it has received the one-time grant.
"We are currently unable to meet on an ongoing basis the demand for the transportation program."
Transportation is the fastest growing program run by the agency. The agency has both staff drivers and 65 volunteer drivers. Staff drivers use the agency's fleet of nine vehicles, while volunteers use their own vehicles. Local and out of town rides are offered.
Its current Monday to Friday service, available for a fee depending on the distance travelled, is also provided to people with disabilities.
Horne said the agency will use the money to pay for a scheduling staff person on evenings and weekends, to offset the cost of another staff driver, and to recruit more volunteer drivers through advertising. She said a staff person working evenings and weekends will act as resource person for the volunteer drivers.
"Our organization is filled with caring people who are here to help some of our most vulnerable neighbours. One of the hardest parts is when we cannot meet that demand and we have to turn clients down or say no," she said.
Aging population means demand rising
She said the agency sometimes asks its clients to be flexible when they need rides.
For example, trips to out of town specialists and to important medical appointments are more of a priority than trips to a long term care home to visit a spouse or to the beauty salon to get hair cut. She said the latter are still important but could be rescheduled to evenings and weekends when there is less demand for rides to see a doctor.
Horne said demand has risen for the rides because the population is aging, the agency is better known in the community and it has become more efficient in its scheduling practices, she said.
In 2008-2009, the agency provided 9,600 rides, compared to the fiscal year 2016-2017, when it provided 41,372 rides. The latest number is a 330 per cent increase.
The grant means its transportation program, largely available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be available until as late as 9 p.m. on weekdays.
The agency offers rides to people who live in Cambridge, Kitchener, and North Dumfries. Waterloo Home Support provides transportation to clients who live in Waterloo.
Community Support Connections has 700 volunteers and it runs programs to help more than 7,500 people live at home with independence and dignity. Its programs include Meals on Wheels, exercise classes, and transportation.