Local agency needs to replace accessible transit bus immediately

Laurie Makulski Harrison
By Laurie Makulski Harrison February 10, 2018 10:15

Amherstburg Community Service’s transit bus driver Tino Riccio stands between its two accessible buses, one of which is out of commission. Photo by Laurie Harrison.

By Laurie Harrison

A phone call to the specialist and a date circled on the calendar. As the doctor appointment approaches, the last thing seniors should be worrying about is how they are getting to their appointment or if they will have enough money to cover cab fare.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) has been providing services to residents of Amherstburg, Lasalle, McGregor and Harrow since the mid-70s and has provided nearly 25,000 rides to area seniors in the past three years to anywhere in Essex County.

The program is called Care Link Health Transit. With more than 1,000 clients in its data base, some using the transit service daily, losing one of its two fully accessible transit buses from the aging fleet of four vehicles is a significant loss.

ACS is now looking to the community to help raise $70,000 to replace the 16-seat accessible transit bus.

“We just like to know that we are there when they need us,” said Kathy DiBartolomeo, executive director of ACS, referring to the agency’s client base of senior citizens.

“Some of them feel they don’t want to rely on family, or their family may not live locally, so this helps them.”

“I am very independent and don’t like depending on others, it’s imposing I feel,” said June Buchanan-Fox, a 91-year-old widowed client who relies on the transit service at least once a week. “I don’t think I could function without them.”

The need to replace the transit bus is immediate. The riders to Windsor have started to increase and maintenance issues to the remaining accessible bus can force ride cancellations and calls to other agencies for help that are not always available. This sometimes impacts seniors who have waited months to get in to see a specialist.

Buchanan-Fox uses the transit services for much more than rides to Windsor doctor appointments.

“It’s a combined benefit, it’s the whole package,” said Buchanan-Fox. “It keeps me mobile, I see friends, I can visit, go to Windsor either in the morning and stay all day or go around noon time and stay until they pick me up and bring me back with the group.”

ACS administrators know that for the clients who use this service, it provides freedom, mobility and a social opportunity.

“When you are in the house and you can’t get out and you are alone and not seeing anyone, you feel like why should I go to the doctor, I can’t get there anyways, no one cares. But to know there is somebody out there who will help you, will get you to your appointments and will take care of you.That’s the biggest thing,” said DiBartolomeo.

“This helps them also fight isolation. When they feel they are a part of a community or someone is caring for them, then they are more apt to take care of themselves health-wise,” said DiBartolomeo. “They can also attend events that they may have.”

“I think it is very important to show seniors that they are very active and still connected to their community.”

Donations are welcome, and fundraising efforts are underway. They are holding a 50/50 draw as well as SOUPer Wednesday, featuring 13 local restaurants, deserts and a chance to vote for your favorite soup, at the Knights of Columbus in Amherstburg Feb. 21.

Laurie Makulski Harrison
By Laurie Makulski Harrison February 10, 2018 10:15

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