A couple of weeks ago we sent an email out to our members asking them to share the stories of the people that run and use their services. The response from our members has been fantastic, demonstrating the very best of community transport and the incredible work that these organisations do. We’ve also had the pleasure of visiting members across the UK, such as DANSA in Neath, South Wales, seeing their vital work first hand. The work that we’ve seen and the stories that we’ve received shine a light on dedicated drivers, committed volunteers and inspirational passengers.
We’re going to be telling these stories in variety of ways, focusing on different aspects of community transports and the different people involved in providing, and benefiting from, inclusive and accessible transport. In this post, we’re going to be looking at the volunteers that give up their time to help those in their communities and some of the lives that these incredibly hard-working people touch.
Anne, who runs ‘The Plum Club’ got in touch to tell us about their weekly service for older people in a very isolated area of Northern Ireland. They run a door-to-door pick-up service, taking their passengers to Strabane for shopping, a lunch club, a game of bingo and then dropping them back off at their own front door.
The service is provided entirely by volunteers and is indicative of the role that volunteers play across the UK, giving up their time to help those in their community. The Plum Club operates for 50 weeks a year, driving around 75 miles for each trip!
“Some of these people may not have any social contact if it wasn’t for this service” said Anne. “It gives them independence, comradeship, company and a sense of wellbeing. It’s great to see them out and about.”
Nina from Lincolnshire County Council also wrote to us with the story of a fantastic group of volunteers and specifically about Bob, the chairman of a car scheme run by a staff of 120 volunteer drivers. The scheme has an office in Louth Hospital and supports patients, staff and local people to get access to the medical care that they need. “Bob is now 75 and tirelessly volunteers in the office, sorting drivers’ rosters to take into account the number of hours or days each driver is happy to volunteer. Bob has to be forced to take a break by his wife; I think he only took one long weekend throughout the whole of last year!” Bob and his volunteers don’t just operate a normal 9-5 scheme; they also have an emergency mobile number which people can use to get to, or get home from, hospital can and get the transport they need, when they need it.
This is why volunteers across the country work so hard: the people who, without their help, wouldn’t be able to access the sorts of services and activities that so many of us take for granted.
Midge from Grimsby and Cleepthorpes Dial-a-Ride encapsulated this when she sent us a letter written by the mother of two girls with Down’s syndrome in support of their nomination for the 2015 Queens Award.
The two girls, who live in specially designed and supported flats in Grimsby, have been using community transport since 1995 when they were 10 & 13 years old. The extent of their disabilities has meant that neither have ever been able to use public transport. Their mother wrote:
“I would like to nominate Grimsby & Cleethorpes Dial-a-Ride for the 2015 Queens Award for Volunteers. They do a wonderful job looking after the elderly and disabled who rely on these volunteer drivers to take them from place to place, without which they would have a very limited lifestyle. The passengers depend totally on these wonderful people who turn out rain or shine, wind or snow, to give them some independence and to get out into the community. Quite a few passengers use wheelchairs and these lovely folk just do it with a smile on their faces. I know they brighten up my daughters’ lives; they are always laughing and chatting with them. Life would be so difficult without the care and support provided by these volunteers. Please consider these very special people for a very special award.”
Thanks both to this letter and the fantastic work they do, Grimsby & Cleethorpes Dial-a-Ride won the award. As a treat for their drivers they took them on a tour to Buckingham Palace and for a ride on the London Eye. There were spare seats available on the trip so they also took along both girls and their mum for a fantastic day out.
“This,” said Midge, “really is the best job in the world.”
These are just a few of the stories that we’ve received over the last few weeks, all of which showcase the very best of what community transport has to offer. Keep in touch with the CTA to hear more, and if you’ve got any stories of your own please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org