April 23, 2013
Maria Saint, OVN correspondent
HELP of Ojai’s Transportation Program provides about 700 rides a month for seniors and disabled folks, according to Terri Wolfe, HELP of Ojai’s executive director. The program transports clients to places such as doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping.
“We provide door-to-door service within the Ojai Valley and we drive about 3,000 miles a month,” Wolfe said.
One of the program’s clients, Victor “Vic” Crowder, died in 2012 and did not have any immediate family. Crowder bequested $99,000 to the program.
Wolfe said that it takes about $90,000 annually to run the Transportation Program.
“We’re constantly looking for funding for this program,” Wolfe said, adding that it is expensive to run because of such factors as the price of gas. “We get annual support from the Area Agency on Aging, which is through the county of Ventura. We also receive annual support from the city of Ojai because we are their contracted paratransit providers.”
Wolfe said that the program has a suggested donation based on the client’s ability to pay. The suggested donation is $2.50 a ride.
“We actually average about $1.50 a ride — it actually costs us $9.36 a ride,” she said.
Despite the cost of the program, Wolfe said it is vibrant.
“HELP of Ojai’s general operating funds make up the difference between the cost of the program and any grant support that we have and we’re able to do that on an annual basis with really the community support and the donations that we received from the general community,” she said. “So when Mr. Crowder gave us this wonderful bequest, it was something that now will help us over and above our general operating expenses, which means we can reserve it to actually purchase a new vehicle and to take care of extraordinary and planned expenses to our other vans … We have a healthy, well-run, well-funded program and this is just a way to help it be even better and provide even better services.”
Wolfe said that they were certainly appreciative of the bequest and that Crowder was a regular rider who really supported the program and he loved using it.
There are about 28 volunteer drivers and David Des Laurier is among them. He remembered Crowder as a nice, quiet-spoken man who used the program to go to and from Westridge Market. For Des Laurier, Crowder was unique in that he didn’t ask for help to have his groceries taken into his house.
“When you drive him home, you drove him to his driveway and he had a wheelbarrow there. He’d put the groceries in his wheelbarrow and he’d wheel it out to the house,” he said. “I thought it was really cute.”
Des Laurier, a volunteer driver for almost 16 years, added that he knew Crowder planned to give money to the program.
“He always said he was going to do it,” Des Laurier shared.
Glenda King, program director, said that she would help give rides to clients when they were short-handed on drivers, so she drove Crowder a couple of times.
“My picking him up and taking him home was not too long of a distance, so we didn’t have a lot of time to chat, but I found him to be very appreciative of our service and just a really sweet, gentle man,” she said.
Those interested in the program, can call King at HELP of Ojai.
Once someone becomes a registered rider, they can call and make a ride reservation a day in advance of their need.
“Then I put together a schedule and let them know what time we’ll pick them up. When they complete their shopping or their appointment, they call us back and I dispatch a van as quickly as I can to take them back home,” King said.
For more information about HELP of Ojai’s Transportation Program, call 646-5122.