Non-profit seniors’ bus service loses grants, starts fundraising
Karen Thomson wants to keep the community bus rolling.
“This is not something we’re putting to bed yet. We still want to have it available as an option,” she said.
For three years, Glanbrook Community Services partnered with the City of Hamilton and two other community service groups in Ancaster and Flamborough to be part of a community transportation pilot grant program offered by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.
“They were specifically assisting older adults who had some transportation barriers to be able to connect from their rural (homes) to city centres,” said Laura Kerr, manager of program development in the recreation division of the City of Hamilton’s healthy and safe communities department.
Kerr worked with the three local groups to jointly apply for the pilot program, and they were accepted.
Originally, it was a one-year pilot, but funding was twice extended.
In Glanbrook, the community bus provided a round trip to the Walmart in Elfrida once a month, as well as a few extra trips to special events, like fairs and festivals, or to specific destinations, such as an attraction or a day trip.
From April 2017 to September 2018, Glanbrook Community Services received $13,000 through the pilot program.
Then in late 2017, the ministry decided the pilot program had been a success and that it would become a grant program.
“We decided to reapply for the five-year funding so they could continue with the community transportation services,” Kerr said.
“It was a very popular grant program,” she added, and while over $54 million in funding was requested, only $30 million was issued, and the City of Hamilton and the three community organizations were denied funding.
The scoring was based on considerations like service areas, ridership numbers and the applicants’ five-year plan. Participation in the pilot program was not part of the scoring.
“The ministry wishes they could have funded everybody, but unfortunately they couldn’t,” Kerr said.
She said Glanbrook Community Services is continuing to run the community bus, but now funding for it is coming out of the organization’s core programming coffers.
Depending on the mode of transportation required for the intended destination, a single trip could cost the organization upwards of $1,000.
Thomson said this is why fundraising is so important, because it helps offset some of the costs.
Kerr said that the city is willing to work with the organizations to explore other funding options.