Boroughbridge Community Care offer the elderly the chance to get out and about

Community transport organisations are a crucial element of the transport network in North Yorkshire, run by the community, for the community.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:44 pm

In the year since lockdown was first introduced, volunteers have come forward in their thousands to help those in need across the country.

Yet some organisations have existed thanks solely to the work of their generous volunteers for many decades.

One area where people have happily been donating their time is community transport.

L-R Phill Brownley, Mark Bailey, Maggie Fink and Nic Holmes

Whether it’s a journey people make every day or a one-off trip, community transport can help people get to where they need to be.

They are important for helping people to get out and about, access services and see friends and family.

One such organisation is Boroughbridge Community Care (BCC), which has been providing transport for the people of Boroughbridge since 1974.

In normal times, BCC would take people on days out to the coast, the theatre and many other places of interest. However, when lockdown came into force last March, all day trips were forced to come to an abrupt halt.

L-R Phill Brownley, Maggie Fink, Mark Bailey and Nic Holmes

The team evaluated what they could do to help. Karen Parker, the charity’s general manager said: “In September we started to offer transport to medical appointments. We installed screens around drivers and gave them full PPE including face shields, masks and hand sanitisers.”

Prior to covid, BCC had also offered car transport, and in January they decided that they were able to offer this to one person or couple at a time so as to keep the driver safe.

When covid vaccinations began, the organisation linked up with Church Lane doctor’s surgery to ensure those who were offered vaccinations were also able to get there.

Karen said: “Normally we have 100+ volunteers, but when lockdown came, all volunteers over 70 were stood down.

“It brought in a much younger demographic and I think we will retain a lot of those. They are finding it really rewarding.”

Nic Holmes, from Upper Dunsforth, has been a volunteer for six years and a trustee for four.

He drives both the minibus and his own car.

Nic, 61, said the decision to get involved came out of the blue: “Very simply, I saw a poster outside Morrisons looking for minibus drivers and I’ve been doing it ever since.

“In normal times I’ve taken the minibus to Lindisfarne, Whitby, Skegness, Holy Island.

“These day trips are usually for the elderly with no other form of transport. Most of the enjoyment seems to be sitting on the bus with their mates.

“The other aspect is local schools - taking small groups to sports and academic events.

“We do a fair amount with them it’s probably true to say that in normal times schools make up 50% of the minibus usage.

“We are massively dependent on volunteers, they are very important to keep organisations like ours going.”

Phill Brownley, started as a volunteer back in 2018 when he moved from Harrogate to Boroughbridge.

Phill, 66, said: “I’d got some free time and I wanted to do something with it for the community. It’s a door to door service and it’s brilliant to know you can help your own neighbour.

“Barbara and Karen are doing a fantastic job to coordinate this. Really it is a fantastic service.”

Mark Bailey, 57, explained what the role entails: “It's a pleasure and a privilege to be a BCC Volunteer car and Community Minibus driver.

“I see it as doing my small bit to help the predominantly older members of our local community

“I travel to hospitals in Harrogate ,York, Ripon and Leeds taking people for hospital appointments, covid tests and covid jabs

“I’ve met some fascinating people a former jockey/racehorse trainer, a bank manager, a head gardener, a nurse and a CEO of a charity

“The job is about driving, but many haven't spoken to anybody for a few days so the chat and banter is equally important.”

Clive Wilson, 89, lives in Kirby Hill near Boroughbridge. A former volunteer driver himself, he knows first hand the value of the service the charity provides.

Clive said: “ I go to York Hospital for treatment for macular degeneration and they literally take me from front door to front door.”

“It’s absolutely wonderful to have this service. They all drive very comfortable cars and even the minibus is top of the range and very comfortable.

“I cannot speak highly enough of this fantastic service at a minimum charge.

“All you’ve got to do is pick up the phone and speak to Karen or Barbara.

“There is transport via North Yorkshire Ambulance Service, but you’ve got to qualify for that and it goes round all the villages, it can take forever to get home

“Honestly, it is a superb service and we are so lucky to have it in Boroughbridge.”

Maggie Fink, 86, who lives in Boroughbridge, used to go on the various day trips BCC offered.

She said the service allows her to maintain her independence: “I’ve had several appointments during lockdown. They pick me up, wait for me until the appointment is finished and take me home again.

“I just want to say a huge thank you to them all and also to Barbara and Karen for organising it all. They are the ones who ring round and arrange everything. I think they are very special.”

If you would like to volunteer or if you need assistance contact Boroughbridge Community Care on 01423 324504.