GAIL MARTIN, Independent Editor
Kiwanis Transit is making a difference in the lives of local seniors.
Just ask Maurice Bauman, who uses Kiwanis Transit service for his weekly visit to Elmira Donuts & Deli.
Bauman, who lives at Leisureworld Caregiving Centre and uses a wheelchair, said that it is unlikely he would be able to get to the local restaurant every week, without the help of Kiwanis Transit. Bauman used to drive a car, but lost his licence. He then used an electronic scooter, but that isn’t an option anymore.
“I couldn’t come unless I go with a car,” said Bauman. “I would have to have help (to come here.)”
“They’re good to us,” said Bauman.
Kiwanis Transit, a specialized transit service for seniors and the disabled, is entering its 20th year.
The transit service originated as a service of Woolwich Home Support, which operated a small bus provided by the Elmira Kiwanis club for weekly grocery shopping trips for Elmira residents.
As the need grew, Woolwich Home Support looked to Woolwich Township to provide financial backing for the service.
At the time, they enlisted the efforts of noted photographer Carl Hiebert, who came to the council meeting only to find that the council chambers were not accessible — underlining the need for improved access to services for the disabled.
Woolwich Township lent its support in 1992, alongside the Elmira Kiwanis club. This was followed by Wellesley Township in 1994. In 2001, when the Region of Waterloo took over transit services, Kiwanis Transit began to provide specialized transit services in Wilmot Township, as well.
As part of Kiwanis Transit’s 20th anniversary, the Independent was invited to ride along for one morning, to get a sense of the service that is provided.
Here is what we found.
Conservative Mennonites are making use of Kiwanis Transit, for a variety of purposes.
Susannah Bauman, from Floradale, had an appointment in St. Jacobs last week, and used Kiwanis Transit to get to that appointment.
Bauman said she often uses the service to get to Elmira, where she then connects to the traditional Grand River Transit service to get where she needs to go.
Her husband, Milton, still drives horse and buggy, said Susannah, but doesn’t have the same need to get out of the house as she does.
“I’m younger, so I go out more,” said Bauman. “I like to go out and about sometimes.”
Kiwanis Transit is also very important to families with medical conditions.
Driver Norma Martin, who has been with the transit service for seven years, said that approximately half of her trips are medical. Clients will use the service for everything from dialysis appointments, to speech therapy, which is what Melinda Weber needed last week.
Melinda, who suffered a stroke in April, has weekly appointments in downtown Kitchener for her speech therapy. Melinda lives on the family farm just outside of St. Jacobs.
She has been using a wheelchair since her stroke, and getting to the appointment on time would be very difficult without Kiwanis Transit, according to Melinda’s sister-in-law, Almeda Weber.
“It’s easier this way; it’s more relaxed,” said Almeda.
On any given day, Kiwanis Transit will have five of its six specialized buses on the road. The buses are each equipped with wheelchair lifts, and have room for several wheelchairs to be strapped in place for the ride.
Up to 200 rides per day are provided by the service, which runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Clients who need to get to appointments outside of those hours — or who have appointments go longer than originally scheduled — can get taxi rides to supplement the service.
Drivers provide door-to-door service, and, if last Thursday was any indication, get to know the clients very well, chatting with them along the route.
The ride itself can be part of the social outing for the seniors, according to Martin, who said she has one conservative Mennonite client who always wants to know if she’s getting a “long ride,” or a “short ride” — and revels in the chance of getting a long ride, to see more of the countryside.
“It gives them that independence, to be able to get our and about,” said Martin.
She enjoys the visits with her clients as well — “they are a lot of fun.”
Kiwanis Transit is available for anyone in Woolwich, Wilmot or Wellesley townships that are over the age of 65, or have a disability — even a temporary one, such as a broken leg — that makes transportation a challenge.
An open house is planned this Saturday at Kiwanis Transit, from 1 p.m to 4 p.m. Kiwanis Transit is located at 13C Industrial Drive, at the rear of the building housing Waterloo Regional Police. Those who need a ride with Kiwanis Transit should call 519-669-4533, or 1-800-461-1355. For more information about Kiwanis Transit, visit www.k-transit.com.