New Brunswick

Charity that provides affordable rides desperate for volunteers

Urban/Rural Rides is in need of volunteers after it lost half of its drivers during the pandemic. With the province starting to loosen restrictions, the charity is hoping more people will step up, as the need for affordable dependable transportation rises.

Program can't manage demand as provincial COVID-19 restrictions loosen

Urban/Rural Rides volunteer Bruno Leitner gives Bruce Moore a ride to the pharmacy. The two have developed a friendship as a result of the program. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Getting to medical appointments was a continual worry for Bruce Moore, whose health issues required him to travel from his home in Sackville to appointments in Moncton fairly often.

But without a car or the money to pay the $140 round trip taxi fare, he was left with few options.

Then, three years ago, he discovered Urban/Rural Rides. He says the program has made it possible to receive the medical care he needs.

Urban/Rural Rides serves people in Westmorland and Albert counties with affordable transportation to outings like medical appointments, shopping or trips to the bank.

Bruce Moore started using Urban/Rural Rides about three years ago. He said he relies on the program to get him to Moncton for medical appointments. Without it, he isn't sure what he would do. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"Without the generosity of volunteers such as Bruno and others I would not be able to get to some of my appointments and you know my health would suffer as a result of that," said Moore.

Bruno, is Moore's friend Bruno Leitner, a retiree who also lives in Sackville. The two men met through the program a few years ago.

"We've talked a lot back and forth and Bruno is very active in his church" said Moore. "I have a master's degree in theology so we we began our friendship, I guess, talking on that basis and it's grown from there."

Leitner said, aside from the friendship he's made, driving anywhere from 400 to 800 kilometres a month for the charity has also taught him a lot about his community.

Bruno Leitner said after he retired he wanted to give back to the community. He drives between 400 and 800 kilometres a month for Urban/Rural Rides. He said before volunteering, he didn't realize how many people in his community needed help. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"I never realized that so many people need help," he said. "(While working full-time) you never realize that this gentleman, he indeed needs help or these people in the apartment have no drive, or have no family."

Filling an affordable transportation void

Kelly Taylor, executive manager of Rural/Urban Rides said there are 650 people registered for the service, a number that has continued to grow over the years.

A ride costs a minimum of $10, for every kilometre after that the client is charged either 75 cents per/km, or 25 cents per/km for clients who qualify for a subsidy - which is most clients, according to Taylor.

"We're picking up that population that doesn't have any other choice, they have no other access," said Taylor. "They couldn't afford a cab if they wanted to ...when you're on a low income it's just not going to happen."

Dealing with so many people who are part of a vulnerable population, when COVID-19 came along the charity had to change the way it operates.

"Initially we just shut everything down and said we would just wait and see what's happening."

Kelly Taylor, executive manager of Urban/Rural Rides said, "with this COVID thing everybody's getting a really good sense of what it feels like to be isolated from other people." She hopes there will be more empathy for people who are isolated all the time.

Taylor said most of her 50 volunteer drivers were senior citizens, and opted to stay home during the pandemic. She said she's operating with about 25 volunteers at the moment, not enough to serve hundreds of people. 

Volunteers needed

With the province opening back up, Taylor said the demand for rides is rising and she needs more volunteers. She said there are strict COVID-19 restrictions in place, but the charity helps drivers by supplying sanitizer and masks.

"Most people in outlying communities are coming into the city once or twice a month anyway, why not bring somebody into the hospital for an appointment at the same time," said Taylor.

"Why not help out your neighbour, and we know the neighbours that need the help."

As most people emerge from an isolation they've never experienced before, Taylor hopes they'll have some empathy for those who experience it year round.

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.

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