NEWS - Community Reach hopes to add to its fleet via grant, funding

A local non-profit organization that provides accessible transit services is hoping to expand its reach in the North Simcoe community with support from the province and local municipalities it serves.

Cathy Greer, executive director of Community Reach North Simcoe, said she has approached the Townships of Tay and Tiny and the Town of Penetanguishene to join hands in acquiring a second accessible van to continue providing support to local users. 

The non-profit runs a program called Transportation Linking Community through which volunteers use their own cars to provide transportation for local residents that do not have acccess to transportation or that need accessible transportation, she said. 

Additionally, Greer said, Community Reach has two vans, one fully accessible, which are driven by paid staff, because of insurance and driver training requirements.

"When COVID hit, we basically stopped using our volunteers and just continued with our two vans," she said, adding that the non-profit continued to operate in the area while others, such as Canadian Red Cross and Canadian Cancer Society, had to suspend operations.

"So our fully accessible van took a beating and we're getting more calls now that we're starting to open up," Greer said. "I thought this is ridiculous that we're driving around with an old van."

She said while she appreciates the support that the municipal governments provide, the need is higher this year because of the organization's inability to hold any fundraisers. 

"The Trillium grant came up just a few weeks ago for capital campaigns," Greer said. "We thought it's not right to go and ask to Trillium for all the money, but we thought it would be a great idea if the townships would (like to partner and) have their logo on the van."

So she reached out to Tiny, Tay and Penetanguishene asking for $15,000 or whatever they can contribute.

"We can use that to go to Trillium and show them we have three partners and that it's a great opportunity to purchase a van and if they could give us the rest (of the money)," Greer said, adding the total cost of the van is about $75,000, out of which the dealership has promised to donate $3,400. There will also be costs of installing plexiglass barriers inside the vans to bring them up to pandemic standards.

The matter was brought forward by Tiny Township's Coun. Cindy Hastings at a recent committee of the whole meeting. She was looking for support from her peers for the amount requested.

"I'm fully supportive," said Coun. Tony Mintoff. "The organization does provide a wonderful service and it's especially important during this pandemic."

The decision to approve the amount was made at Tiny's regular council meeting later the same day.  

It was brought up again at Penetanguishene's recent committee of the whole meeting.

"They're applying to Trillium for funding so it would be good to know how much do they need to fundraise and have in place and how much are they applying to trillium for the funding," said Mayor Doug Leroux.

But Coun. Jessica Klug pointed out the urgency of the matter highlighting the deadline of Sept. 2.

"I'm wondering if we can get more information from them as soon as possible and schedule a special council meeting," she said. "I don't want to think about all our seniors that can't travel around during this pandemic."

The topic will be part of a special council meeting to be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Greer said the organization is "ecstatic about Tiny's approval of the money."

"At this point we have 102 active Tiny residents," she said. "We have well over 105 people in Penetang that are clients who wouldn't be able to get out and go to different things. They can't afford taxis everywhere, plus how can you get a wheelechair into a taxi?"

Looking at numbers for North Simcoe, Greer said, the non-profit recorded 109 rides in June and 195 in July, with the number going up to 350 in August.

Soon, she added, with more services opening up, it will be back up to the 400 per month number it was before the pandemic.

Greer's request to Tay Township will be up for discussion at this Wednesday's council meeting. 

"In Tay, we have 116 residents using our program," she said. "And it's going to increase a whole lot with the seniors housing in Victoria Harbour."

Greer said people should keep in mind that when a driver takes a resident to the Greater Toronto Area (Newmarket hospital, Sunnybrook, Princess Margaret etc.) for a medical appointment, it takes them the entire day and limits the availability of the vehicle for almost the whole day.

"We are now starting to schedule a couple of volunteers to take the pressure off of the vans," she said. "Iím really hoping we donít experience a heavy second wave but the medical experts are expecting it."

For more information on the organization, to book a ride, or to donate money, visit the Community Reach of North Simcoe webpage.

Midland Today - Mehreen Shahid
Aug 26, 2020 9:30 AM

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