Monday, June 25, 2007

Changes in Wetaskiwin, AB

Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser, Wetaskiwin, AB: "Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing to take on handivan busing
“The Wetaskiwin Handi-Van Society made a formal request for Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing to take over management and day-to-day operations of the service.” ~Kathy Wood, Seniors’ Homes and Community Housing executive director "

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Organizations make commitment to handibus service

Airdrie Echo, Airdrie, AB: "Organizations make commitment to handibus service"

Wednesday June 06, 2007

Rocky View Handibus — Fundraising for new vehicles became a little easier at Rocky View Regional Handibus, when two Calgary service clubs committed a total of $30,000 to the campaign. The Rotary Club of Calgary Olympic and the Associated Commercial Travellers both contributed to a previous campaign in 2005. Their donations, plus a donation from EnCana, means Rocky View Handibus has achieved about 20 per cent of its $240,000 goal.

"It is wonderful to have old friends back on board. Donations have been a little slow this winter. I’m learning that a capital campaign is a full-time task in addition to being manager and spare driver," Rocky View Handibus manager Paul Siller said. "It hasn’t helped that we have been working without a spare vehicle since December. Life around here is stressful when we have nothing available to cover a vehicle breakdown."

Fundraising for vehicles started in fall 2006, with a goal of two new vehicles. In December, a minor traffic collision from an uninsured driver wrote off one of the vehicles. A new goal of three buses was set. More than 50 proposals have been sent and more effort is forthcoming.

Operating just outside the Calgary city limits, Rocky View Regional Handibus provides a weekday service in an area that is three times the size of Calgary. Eight buses provide trips for education, medical appointments and even groceries. With a big region to cover, it can be difficult to accommodate many of the trips with a limited number of buses. Newcomers to the region who once relied on Calgary’s Handibus receive a big surprise when they find out just how limited the service is.

"People ask us about weekend and evening service ... we have trouble paying the bills for a weekday service," Siller said. "Last year, less than 20 per cent of our funding came from government sources."

Despite no direct provincial assistance, the organization is receiving more help from the communities with which it works. Crossfield and Rocky View have found a bit more cash for operating funds and Chestermere is willing to support a 12-month pilot project as soon as a bus can be put on the road.

"Just when we get more support, we start losing buses to attrition," Siller said. "It must also be frustrating to municipalities. They have to provide the local transportation services for provincial home-based care programs. The municipality supports us financially, while the province reaps the savings."

Service clubs mobilize for Rocky View handibus

More Headlines, June 5, 2007 - Rocky View Weekly Newspaper - The official newspaper for the Municipal District of Rocky View.: "Service clubs mobilize for Rocky View handibus"

On a cold winter day, a Crossfield truck driver spotted a woman walking on the roadside. She was attempting to walk nine miles in minus 20 C to an appointment in Airdrie.

The driver picked up the woman and took her to trucking company office and then called the Rocky View Regional Handibus for assistance.

"We picked her up at the trucking company office and later took her to four other visits," says Paul Siller, transportation manager of the Rocky View Regional Handibus.

With an eight-bus fleet, the non-profit, Airdrie-based society strives to provide transportation services in a large part of the M.D. of Rocky View and neighbouring communities, an area over three times larger than the City of Calgary.

"With a big region to cover, it can be difficult to accommodate many of the trips with a limited number of buses," said Siller.

Rural residents who cannot drive because of their age, disabilities or other factors, rely on the society for trips to medical appointments, education or even groceries.

"Many families depend on us when their aged parent cannot transfer into the family vehicle," Siller said. "People ask us about weekend and evening service, but we have trouble paying the bills for a weekday service."

As bed shortages in Calgary's health care places increase reliance on "care in the home" programs, growing numbers of rural residents are sent home earlier but later need to make trips for physiotherapy sessions, laboratory work or day hospital treatment.

And while the province achieves savings by discharging patients earlier and referring them to home-based care programs, it provides no funding for the handibus, which transports many of those patients to follow-up treatment or check-up appointments.

"Overall, we provided over 13,000 trips in 2006," said Siller, "which is a number greater than the Fort McMurray handibus service."

Local governments such as Crossfield and Rocky View have stepped up their funding to the society, and Chestermere is willing to support an upcoming 12-month pilot project, said Siller.

Siller acknowledges that constant requests must be frustrating to municipalities, which are asked to provide support for a service considered to be of provincial responsibility. Yet, the handibus society receives less than 20 per cent of its funding from government sources. To make up for the remainder, the handibus society must be in a permanent fundraising mode, knocking on the doors of local organizations and corporations.

Meanwhile, demand for transportation is constantly increasing.

"Newcomers who once relied on city handibus services receive a surprise when they find out how limited a service we have," Siller said.

Low-income residents use the handibus for local needs such as a food bank hamper, medical appointments, lab tests, mental health counselling or when leaving a domestic crisis. The society also considers the therapeutic effects of those who just need to break their isolation by taking a shopping trip or attending a social event.

As a red-hot economy roars across the province, Calgary residents with disabilities hit by higher fees in the Calgary rental market move to neighbouring communities such as Chestermere and Langdon. After an accident wrecked one of its buses, the society has been operating with one less vehicle.

"Life around here is stressful when we have nothing available for a vehicle breakdown," said Siller.

In a bid to acquire three new buses, the handibus society has launched a fundraising campaign, which recently picked up speed with the help of two Calgary service clubs that had contributed in previous years.

"It is wonderful to have old friends back on board," said Siller, who also wears the hat of campaign manager and spare driver.

The Rotary Club of Calgary Olympic and the Associated Commercial Travellers have committed a total of $30,000 to the campaign. Their donations, plus a donation from EnCana Corporation, has allowed Rocky View Regional Handibus to reach $50,000, or 20 per cent of its $240,000 goal.

Editorial: A driving need for transportation

High River Times, High River, AB

A driving need for transportation

Tuesday June 05, 2007

A plan to look into transportation for medical appointment or social outings could be good news for local seniors.

After hearing there is a need in the community for seniors transportation for medical appointments at its May 28 meeting, town council recommended administration develop a program for its approval in September.

The real question is what level of services should be made available. Two options are up for investigation: one for transportation for medical appointments only and a second possibility that would include trips for social reasons in response to concerns over isolation.

At a minimum, a transportation program should cover medical purposes.
Given current options available, a trip to the city for a medical appointment can be difficult and pricey for some seniors.

Taking a taxi can cost over $100. The High River Handibus costs less at $25 per hour – but, this still adds up depending on how long the trip takes. The Greyhound bus is cheaper, but a person has to make their way from the station downtown to the location of their appointment.

The other remaining option is to rely on family, friends or the kindness of an FCSS volunteer driver.

While these options may work for some, there will be others who’ll find themselves with a medical appointment in the city and no way to get there. A program that addresses this necessity could make a big difference in the lives of those who need it the most.

Ultimately, the necessity of transportation services will only get larger as the Town continues to grow. And, at some point this may go beyond the needs of seniors.
For now, a program that helps meet seniors’ transportation needs could go a long way to improving the lives of many residents in town.

High River Times, High River, AB

High River Times, High River, AB: "More to consider on seniors' transport"

Isabel Anderson, High River
Tuesday June 12, 2007

I was very pleased to see that Council is open to considering the much-needed subsidization for medical and dental appointments to Calgary, but nowhere was there mention of Okotoks. With its medical, dental and diagnostic clinics, it is sure to be a popular and accessible destination and much easier on the budget, providing the required treatment can be obtained there. I believe it deserves consideration.
Also, the Handibus, at this time, charges $9 for a return trip locally. This also needs subsidization and if a means test is necessary, so be it.

The new plan to keep seniors in their homes while helping them with shopping, yard work, etc., appears excellent. I would hope that local industry and service clubs would come forward to help with funding of this initial project. Their help could ensure more immediate funding and also help Council with future budgeting.

Again, I am thankful that Council is addressing this very dire issue, but it will not be complete without the Okotoks and local transportation fee adjustments.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

More Headlines, May 29, 2007 - Rocky View Weekly Newspaper - The official newspaper for the Municipal District of Rocky View.

Cochrane transportation society receives award nomination


A group of volunteers who have been providing affordable transportation in Cochrane and area to senior citizens and persons with disabilities has been nominated for a provincial award.

"I commend these individuals and organizations for their initiative in assisting the seniors in their communities," said Greg Melchin, Minister of Alberta Seniors and Community Supports.

Run by a handful of volunteer senior citizens, partially supported by local organizations and donations from individuals and businesses, the Big Hill Senior Citizen's Activities Society transports residents in Cochrane, Bearspaw, Springbank and other areas in northwest M.D. of Rocky View to medical and recreational facilities in Calgary.

The Minister's Seniors Service Awards recognizes outstanding individuals and organizations who improve the quality of life of seniors through their services.

another exerpt:
The group faces increasing challenges presented by increasing numbers of aging baby boomers.

"Starting last summer we had to turn down trips because we did not have enough vehicles," said Orville Lammle, the society's director of busing. "Our focus right now is to get another vehicle and to overcome our mounting expenses."

Wills said provincial help could go a long way to help the group.