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Seniors club offering new ride program

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am

RIDE ALONG – Local realtor Fern Proulx will be just one of the volunteers for the St. Albert 50+ Club's transportation for seniors, a new program to drive those in need to appointments and such.
RIDE ALONG – Local realtor Fern Proulx will be just one of the volunteers for the St. Albert 50+ Club's transportation for seniors, a new program to drive those in need to appointments and such.
APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette

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Low-income seniors in need of a ride can apply to a new pilot project from the 50+ Club.

The club has started co-ordinating rides for qualifying seniors through the services of volunteer drivers.

“We did our first actual transportation on the 16th of December,” said transportation co-ordinator Heike Hatcher. “It’s meant for seniors that are 65-plus that receive Alberta Seniors Benefits.”

The seniors aren’t charged anything for the rides. Drivers will take them to medical appointments, family visits, shopping or social engagements within St. Albert or from St. Albert to Edmonton.

“That’s a free service for seniors,” Hatcher said, noting volunteer drivers generously cover their gas costs.

The program is paid for by a combination of grants from the Alberta Lottery Fund, New Horizons for Seniors, Shaw and Family and Community Support Services, Hatcher said.

At the beginning of January Hatcher had 11 volunteers for driving duties. Six seniors were registered and more were in the process of applying.

To get started on getting registered, seniors who qualify can contact Hatcher and then go in for a meeting.

“The seniors that can apply for the program and qualify for it, they talk to me and it’s all confidential,” Hatcher said.

Once they’re registered they can call for a ride, but are asked to book a week in advance so a volunteer can be arranged.

Seniors using the service need to be able to make their own decisions and get in and out of the car on their own, Hatcher said. Collapsible wheelchairs or walkers are allowed.

“The seniors are very grateful. They all have different circumstances and for them to be able to take a cab ride into Edmonton, for example, it’s just way too expensive,” she said.

The two-year pilot project came about as a result because it was identified as a need by the seniors working group, in which many agencies and stakeholders participate.

Fern Proulx is a volunteer driver with the program.

“I’ve done it before and I quite enjoy working with that age of people because they really appreciate [it],” the local real estate agent said. He heard about the volunteer opportunity via the Rotary club.

He said the gas and time is “not a big deal” as often the requests are for locations relatively close to his office.

“Usually an hour does it,” Proulx said. “I probably get one or two calls a week.”

He’d participated as a volunteer in a similar program run out of Edmonton, but stopped as he found it was too time consuming. The St. Albert program thus far has been a better fit.

“This is perfect for anybody who has a little bit of time on their hands in St. Albert,” Proulx said.


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