Community service and engagement; the subtle art of volunteering

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – When it comes to transportation to and from medical appointments, to get groceries, and other essential trips, it is not easy for many people who do not have access to their own transportation. One option is to call a taxi, but with few cabs in the area the wait can be long, so if someone has an appointment at a specific time they may not be able to arrive on schedule. But, all is not lost. There is a service that people in Charlotte County can use to book rides ahead of time, and the cost is less than any taxi service.

Charlotte Dial-a-Ride relies on volunteer drivers to take passengers to and from appointments, to run errands, and more. The great thing about this is that it is much different from a traditional taxi service. Drivers are never asked to more than they are able to do, and they are able to work around their own schedules. Manager Dana Planetta said they are always seeking new volunteers to add to their base, so there is always someone available when clients need drives.

In many cases, drives would be local, but there are occasions when drivers would be asked to take clients into Saint John for appointments. Such was the case last week with volunteer driver Carol Travis of Canal, who met a client from Grand Manan at the ferry terminal in Blacks Harbour.

Travis has been volunteering with Dial-a-Ride for about nine years now. A widow, Travis was looking for something to do that would keep her busy and help her to feel like she was doing something useful for her community. She enjoys going out for drives, so volunteering with Dial-a-Ride seemed like the perfect fit for her needs. She gets to meet new people all the time, and she also enjoys catching up with the clients she sees semi-regularly.

“My husband passed away,” said Travis. “I’m retired, and I needed something to do to get me out of the house. I love to drive.”

Travis said she volunteers at least two to three days each week, and she has no intention of slowing down any time soon (volunteer work, not driving as she does obey speed limits). Not only is Travis a volunteer driver, she also sits on the Charlotte Dial-a-Ride board of directors. Planetta said it is always a pleasure to work with Travis, adding that her services are invaluable as she has great ideas for the organization.

“Carol’s been with us for several years,” said Planetta. “We love having Carol. Carol has a van, and it gives people more leg room. She’s awesome. People do love her. Oh my goodness, she’s taken whole families, pre-COVID.”

Last Tuesday, Travis’ client was TJ Bainbridge of Grand Manan. Bainbridge has medical appointments off the island, and no access to other forms of transportation besides Charlotte Dial-a-Ride. He thinks this is a much-needed service in the community. Travis was able to pick him up in Blacks Harbour at the Grand Manan ferry terminal in the morning, and then brought him back to catch the ferry home in the afternoon. Travis said he has been a client for “five or six years”, and he feels this is a very valuable service for the community, and said the rates are very reasonable.

“I think it’s an excellent service, especially when you’ve got medical appointments and no transportation yourself,” said Bainbridge. “You can get Dial-a-Ride, and they’re good drivers. I catch the ferry, and then meet someone over in Blacks. They actually have a couple of drivers on Grand Manan too. It works perfect.”

If you would like to become a volunteer or a member with Charlotte Dial-a-Ride, you can visit the Facebook page, or go directly to the website at www.charlottedial-a-ride.com to fill out an application.

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca