Wheels keep rolling for seniors delivery service

The seniors delivery and transportation service in Fort St. James will continue for the time being.

The Seniors Helping Seniors delivery and transportation service in Fort St. James has been given a temporary reprieve to keep operating by mayor and council.

The service has run out of grant funding which was paying for the operation of two vans to help pick up and deliver medications and groceries for seniors and to drive seniors to medical appointments or social activities.

The program began in December 2012to provide grocery and medication delivery and was expanded to offer transportation for seniors to medical appointments and social activities.

There is a part time senior coordinator position with the service, and the driving is done by volunteers who get a small honorarium for their time.

“It’s really built on the strength of our volunteer,” said Emily Columbo, economic development officer for the District of Fort St. James.

Since it began, the service has provided over 300 delivery trips and an estimated 70 medical appointment trips and driven over 25,000 km.

Mayor Rob MacDougall and all of the councillors spoke in support of the service and it’s importance in allowing seniors in the community to age in place.

The council then voted unanimously to approve interim funding to maintain the service, which costs an estimated $30,000 a year to operate.

“We have those two vans sitting out there but I don’t want them sitting,” said Councillor Russ Gingrich.

Councillor Joan Burdeniuk suggested the funds allocated for councillors to pay the for attending extra meetings outside of their normal council duties, but are often not all claimed, be then allocated to this service specifically.

MacDougall said he sees the service as something unique in the interior.

“I just think it’s a service that is so beneficial to our community,” he said.

Gingrich said the hope is to partner with Northern Health, Nak’azdli or the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako to be able to maintain the service.

He pointed out the service helps to reduce backlogs in medical appointments because it helps prevent clients missing medical appointments due to transportation issues, which increases wait lists.

Mayor and council approved $7,500 in funding to keep the service for the time being while they look for funding partners for the program.