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Strathmore following Canmore’s example on volunteer driver program

By Monique Massiah, Strathmore Standard

Volunteer driver programs are a hot button issue in the news today. In Strathmore, the issue of a new taxi bylaw compared to the operation of a new volunteer driver program, is being discussed and deliberated at municipal council meetings. Volunteer driver programs are a great way for low income residents and people with disabilities to get around, while not breaking the budget.

In Canmore, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) operate a successful volunteer driver program. The Canmore FCSS program is said to be part of the model for the KARE volunteer driver program, which is based in Strathmore.

Canmore’s volunteer driver program is run in partnership with the towns of Banff, Canmore, and the MD of Bighorn. It was launched in September 2009 and each office operates their own program with their own clients and volunteers. Canmore’s program provides transportation for seniors and people with disabilities to medical appointment in Calgary or Banff primarily.

“Our first priority is to seniors, but we accommodate others that are lacking transportation or are unable to drive post their specialist treatment. All clients must complete an application process and meet the program criteria,” said Mavis Sautner from the Town of Canmore. She explained that most of their specialist appointments are in Calgary, but occasionally a few are in Banff. Calgary is approximately one hour from Canmore and Banff is about a 30 minute drive from Canmore,

New clients complete an application and are interviewed for suitability. Once enrolled in the program, individuals call Sautner with the details of their appointment, like the date, time, duration of the appoint, address and any other information the driver should know.

“I would then put an email request with appointment details to my group of volunteers, and the first one to respond would be the driver. I then give the driver the client contact information and the driver would contact them directly to discuss what time to pick them up for the trip. If there is no one available, I would be back in touch with the client to let them know that, and to suggest other ways of travelling to their appointment or suggesting that they rebook their appointment for another date and we try the program volunteers again,” said Sautner.

In order to become a driver, individuals are screened through the application process. They undergo an interview and reference check, a RCMP Security Clearance and a Vulnerable Sector check. They are required to provide a Motor Vehicle Abstract, a copy of their driver’s license and a copy of their insurance policy.

In addition, Canmore also operates a unique taxi pass system where low income seniors and people with disabilities can get eight taxi vouchers per month to use within the community. The Cycling Without Age program is also a one of a kind program that shuttles seniors with limited mobility in rickshaw-like bicycles. 

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