Stettler & District Handi-bus is putting out the call for increased community support to meet demand for services.
As of the start of this year, the organization had to withdraw their service of transporting folks to medical appointments outside of Stettler via the use of their medical van, said Judy McKnight, program coordinator with the Stettler & District Handi-bus Society.
And as McKnight emphasized, the registered non-profit society depends on donations to operate.
“The Handi-bus board had made a decision that on January 1st, 2021 that we would be discontinuing our medical van service for out-of-town trips,” she explained.
“We now just have our big bus running in town.”
The medical van had been in service since 2008.
“That decision was made after close scrutiny of our medical van program and budget. For many years that we have run this program, we have not been able to obtain any extra funding,” she added. “We are now unable to cover all of our unrelated expenses to break even.
“So we haven’t been able to run the van this year.”
But that doesn’t mean that demand for use of the medical van has diminished.
“There are a lot of seniors who have relied on us before,” she said. “I’ve had calls about it, and unfortunately I have to tell them that we can’t help them. And I don’t know of any other service like this in Stettler that has a wheelchair accessible vehicle,” she said.
“It makes it tough for some people right now, especially with COVID-19 and people having to go to Red Deer for their vaccinations,” she said.
As mentioned, Stettler & District Handi-bus relies on the generosity of the community to continue to serve. McKnight said they are also applying for various government grants as well.
“We had an emergency board meeting the other night and we are trying to get it out there to people that the government doesn’t give us money,” she said.
“We go to the Town of Stettler each year and ask for money, and they are giving us $25,000 this year,” she said. “They’ve been doing that for a few years now.”
The County typically does provide some funding as well, but the organization hasn’t heard yet this year if that will be the case, she said.
“We rely on our passenger fares and donations, and Superfluity of course who are also very generous,” she said.
The Province does not provide any funding at all.
And organizations such as FCSS aren’t able to provide transportation funding towards operation of the Handi-bus as part of their provincial mandate.
Because Handi-bus shares the FCSS office, people also sometimes assume they are at least partly funded by FCSS as well – which is not the case.
McKnight also mentioned that many people around the community don’t know that the service is even up and running.
“A lot of people also didn’t realize that we had our medical van which we used to take people to those medical appointments out of town,” she added.
For more information, or to help out financially, call the local office at 403-742-5858 or email email@example.com.