Team North Yorkshire: Scarborough Dial A Ride "came like the cavalry over the hill to support us"
Community transport organisations are a crucial element of the transport network in North Yorkshire, run by the community, for the community.
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.
Whether it’s a journey people make every day or a one-off trip, community transport helps 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 Scarborough based Dial A Ride which has been operating in the town for almost 40 years.
The service began in 1983 as part of a project for the Scarborough District Voluntary service and in 1994 became an independent charity.
Service manager, Julie Banks, joined initially as an admin assistant and has been with the organisation for more than 26 years.
She has seen a number of changes in the time, but none have been as challenging as the last 12 months.
Julie said: “We are centred around covid at the moment. We never stopped and quickly adapted to operate safely.
“When covid hit we lost 75%of our volunteers due to shielding, but then the number of journeys dropped off the edge of a cliff as well.
“We spent a lot of money on sanitising equipment and invested very early on in a fogging machine.
“We are still taking people to most things, the ones with no family to rely on.”
“When we’re taking people for jabs, for some of them it’s the only time they have been out in a year.
“We have one paid driver and two paid escorts who thought it important to keep coming in and keep that routine.
“We do special needs school runs and we’ve still been able to do those.
“We do charge - the school runs buoy up the rest of the service.
“We’re about the third of the cost of a taxi and we charge £3 a year membership.
“We operate Monday to Friday and we ask people to give us as much notice as they can, but if you phone on the day and you’ve got space we will take you.
“Tell us what time you want to go and where you are going. There is no restriction on what you need transport for .
“If people want to join, all they have to do is give us a ring.
“Some of our volunteers have been with us for 10,12 or even 18 years, so we must be doing something right.
“All they get in return is tea/coffee and biscuits and the thanks of the people they take.
Helen Todd is one of Dial a Ride’s few paid members of staff. She started out as a volunteer in January 2005 and after volunteering with the organisation for 15 months, became their only employed driver.
Helen, was a chef by trade, but stopped when she had children, she said: “The hours were rubbish and the money not so good. I felt like a change.”
“I was in a position to do voluntary work, so I thought I’d give it a try in between the school runs and the rest is history.
“Even now, I still look forward to getting up in the morning.
“It’s so rewarding, you feel as if you’ve done something to help somebody every day of the week.
Tony Kirby has volunteered with Dial A Ride for more than six years.
He said: “One day I just walked into the place, why or how I don’t know. I said I’d like to volunteer, I got into it and I love it.
“It structures your week. Through covid it has been absolutely brilliant not to be sat in the house. It’s something to get up and get out for. I love doing my bit.
Bob Monaghan signed up after retiring in 2008. After a year of doing jobs around the house he began to get bored and he looked for something else to do.
He said: “As luck would have it, I saw dial-a-ride advertising in the paper.
“I just enjoy driving and it’s somebody else’s fuel.
“I enjoy meeting people, it’s as good for me as it is for them.
“I get so much pleasure and goodness out of it for myself, I like doing it.
Passenger assistant Frank McAdam first volunteered with the service in 1999.
He said: “I sometimes do the school run for the SEN kids to Springhead, we take care of them and their parents trust us with their lives. I absolutely love it.
“Taking the children is such a joy, they’re so appreciative and so grateful.
“We’re still taking a few of them at the moment, and I’m just waiting to see them all again.
“It’s like a family, but it’s a family that doesn’t fall out.
“Helen’s a lovely girl, that’s the sort of volunteers we have. We all help each other.”
Bill Scott and his wife Anne are regular users of the service.
Mr Scott said: “I’m 88 and my wife is 80 and we’re both in fragile health, we can still walk, but not far.
“We usually use them for medical reasons such as going to the surgery or hospital in York.
“Very occasionally we take a trip to the supermarket or go up to Seamer to see our disabled son.
“They are always on time and all have comical approaches to life. You get some banter.
“Occasionally they might pick up another passenger and you might have to go another route and you see part of Scarborough you’ve not seen before.
“I had been having to visit the eye clinic at Scarborough Hospital and then I was transferred to York because they have a better eye department and expertise.
“Dial A Ride was thankfully able to take me there. Originally my wife would help me along, but during the pandemic she wasn’t allowed in York Hospital. The drivers and assistants were very, very good. They accompanied me and ensured I didn’t have any problems
“They are always waiting for me when I come out. I’m extremely grateful for that.
“My wife uses them for the doctor’s surgery and Bridlington Hospital and Dial A Ride came again like the cavalry coming over the hill to support us.
“I don’t know what we would have done without Dial A Ride. I often wonder to be honest, we couldn’t do it without them.
Another lady from Seamer uses Dial A Ride every week to do her weekly shop at Morrisons.
She said: “Dial A Ride pick me up and take me into town. They ask how long I want in town and drop me where I want to be.
“I keep telling people about them. They are brilliant with me and for other people in the same boat.
“Helen and Julie and all lovely and we have a bit of a laugh and a joke with them.”
If you would like to get in touch with Dial A Ride you can contact them by calling 01723 354434.