December 14 2020-Gananoque Wheels of Care has secured $10,000 in funding from the town of Gananoque, following last Thursday evening's budget deliberations.
"This funding shows the town's ongoing commitment to providing affordable, door-to-door accessible transport for the residents of Gananoque," said Cliff Byrnes, president of Gananoque Wheels of Care, which provides trips to people who qualify for specialized transportation.
According to Mayor Ted Lojko the funds for Wheels of Care, came out of the Council Grants envelope.
"The max any organization can ask from Council Grants is $10,000 and with the Wheels of Care they provide an invaluable service," said Lojko explaining why the organization was able to secure its full ask.
The not-for-profit organization has had to operate at reduced capacity this year because of the pandemic. In 2020 Wheels of Care served 30 clients and did about 400 trips, a 40-per-cent reduction from the previous year because people are not going out for social events, according to Byrnes and COVID protocols have taken a bite.
"Normally our buses can accommodate nine clients at a time with two wheelchair spaces. We're only taking two clients at a time, right now, so we can have the social distancing that’s necessary," said Byrnes.
In future years Byrnes says he hopes the town will partner with Wheels of Care and include them in a transportation budget so they can be assured of ongoing funding and don't have to apply every year.
"If and when the Town of Gananoque and the township of Leeds and Thousand Islands establish a public transit system….the Wheels of Care would have to be incorporated into the transportation plan," agreed Lojko.
The $10,000 in funding will be used in 2021 to offset the organization's operational expenses, allowing it to offer rides at below cost. While the service is subsidized, there is a nominal fee charged to individuals who use the service. For example, return trips to Kingston will be $45 versus an actual cost in excess of $100.
Byrnes said he would also like to recognize all the service clubs, businesses and private individuals who have given the organization financial support.
Story by By Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times