A $7,500 grant from the Central Minnesota Initiative Fund is making it possible to get the bus service for area senior citizens and handicapped persons started.
Janel Hoffman, senior center director, said the ball got rolling last fall concerning about the need for a bus service. ďI kept getting phone calls from people asking for rides or from out-of-town children asking about possible rides to doctors for their senior citizen parents,Ē Hoffman said.
Hoffman had talked with Willie LaCroix, hospital administrator, about the need and he was full of ideas. Then information on the grant program arrived and she felt it was the answer to their prayers.
ďIt is our goal to provide economic transportation for senior citizens and handicapped persons in a 10-mile radius to Paynesville for appointments, business, shopping, visiting and to come to the center. The availability of this grant money would enable us to initiate a program to meet these needs,Ē Hoffman said.
The bus would serve residents between Paynesville, Regal, Hawick, Lake Henry, St. Martin, and Roscoe.
A big plus of this service is that the Paynesville Area Health Care System already has the van and driver. At present, the van picks up people on Fridays to bring them to the Paynesville Area Senior Center for a noon meal.
Hoffman is working with John Peyerl and Karen Whitcomb at the hospital to coordinate the scheduling of the van. The senior center will be paying the hospital for mileage and wages of the driver. Volunteer drivers will also be sought for the program, she added.
ďWe plan on starting out small, running the bus two or three days a week, four to six hours per day and grow as the need arises,Ē Hoffman said. ďThe van will be available to transport people to visit friends, get to doctor appointments, to get groceries, and bring them to the senior center or to a local cafe.Ē
ďWe are asking a $1 donation for short trips or $2 for trips more than five miles,Ē Hoffman said. ďMany people donít want to accept something without paying. This is one way to help cover some of the expenses of the bus.Ē
She has also talked with Wally Erickson and his marketing class to help promote the project.
ďOnce the program is up and running successfully, the senior center can solicit funding from other service organizations in Paynesville. In addition, Hoffman has indicated funds are also available from the Tri-County Action Program in St. Cloud if they meet their criteria.
ďIt is our intent that this be an ongoing service,Ē Hoffman stressed.
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