Poor people in Sackville, Dorchester and Port Elgin badly need rides to out-of-town medical appointments judging by a presentation last night to Sackville Town Council.
Kelly Taylor, who manages the group Rural Rides, says the registered charity has recorded a much higher demand than expected in the first four months of a six-month pilot project.
She explained that in June, when it started offering transportation service in the Tantramar area, Rural Rides had a goal of attracting seven clients, but so far has served 26.
She added that by the end of October, its clients had received 120 rides with another 26 already booked for November, far surpassing the goal of 50 for the full six-month period which ends in December.
“So, as you can see…the pilot is a success,” Taylor told councillors, “and there is obviously a need for this service in this area going forward.”
Request for town support
Joanna Brown, a community co-ordinator with WA Action, a group working with Rural Rides, said she’s hoping Sackville will help support the ride program by contributing $4,100 per year, an amount equivalent to 75 cents per resident.
“We’d like to continue to run the service in your community,” she said, “but we’d also like your support and one way would be by providing that 75 cents.”
Taylor told council that Rural Rides charges its clients 70 cents per kilometre, but offers a subsidized rate of 25 cents for those on low-incomes.
“What we have found is that every single client to date has qualified for the subsidized rate,” she said. “What that tells us is there is a deep need for transportation for low-income families and low-income seniors in this area.”
Taylor told councillors that when it started out in the Tantramar area, Rural Rides hoped to enlist five volunteer drivers, but now has eight, three in Sackville, two in Port Elgin and three in Dorchester.
She said drivers receive 35 cents per kilometre meaning that, so far, the service has been losing money on every ride.
“I realize of course that sounds like really poor business practice,” Taylor said, “but the reality is that transportation is almost always subsidized and it’s never something that’s going to make a profit and we are a registered charity, so we are not in it to make a profit, we’re in it to meet a need that exists in the community.”
So far, nearly all of the rides have taken people on return trips from their homes to medical appointments in Moncton, Dieppe and Amherst, but Rural Rides also offers transportation for out-of-town food shopping and will likely expand the service to include other things such as social visits and recreational outings.
Town Council made no commitments to help with funding last night, but both Councillors Bill Evans and Megan Mitton spoke strongly in favour of the ride service.
CAO Phil Handrahan asked Taylor and Brown to submit their information to Treasurer Michael Beal as soon as possible for consideration in next year’s budget.
To register as a client for Rural Rides in the Tantramar area, to volunteer as a driver, or to make a donation, call this local number: (506)-988-2101.