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Close to 50 years of volunteering with Unity Courtesy Car

Service is run by volunteers.

UNITY – With Volunteer Appreciation Week approaching, the community of Unity has plenty of groups, organizations and clubs that fit the bill. But there is one organization that has been around for almost 50 years and sees no signs of slowing down.

What is known today as the Courtesy Car began as Unity Community Services. In 1975, Mayor Leonard Boxell held a meeting with a few residents, including Kitty Grosskopf, as he recognized the need for the senior residents in the town who needed some assistance with homemaking services. Unity Community Services was formed with a board of 12 members, which included Grosskopf.

Services that were provided to the seniors included meals on wheels, transportation to local appointments, grocery stores, post office and banks, home care and homemaking. In the beginning, Ruth Rutledge would arrange the drivers, who would use their vehicles when picking up clients. Rutledge eventually retired and the job was picked up by Grosskopf and Toots Gilbert.

In three years, the Unity Community Services received the donation of a car from the Lions Club. It was around this time that the phrase “courtesy car” was coined. Two other cars were donated later in the 1990s. Over the years, many of the donations received have gone to repairs and upgrades to the vehicles, with the latest vehicle being bought in June 2023.

Over time, some of the available services are no longer part of the program and the number of donations has increased. Volunteer, Phyllis Weisbeck, said that many of the donations they receive are from those who have passed away and they used to volunteer at the office or frequently used the service.

“Without donations and the people who volunteer at the Courtesy Car, we wouldn’t be able to continue this service,” said Weisbeck.

The Courtesy Car currently has 28 drivers, 29 dispatchers and 15 couples that work alongside each other doing both jobs. Volunteers are called two weeks in advance, and most will pitch in to help once or twice a month. Some volunteers help more often than others and the organizers are always willing to work around a personal schedule. The Courtesy Car has seen the challenge of finding volunteers during the summer and winter months, when many have plans at the lake, golf courses or travelling south.

“We are always looking for drivers or desk workers. If you have five hours a month to help volunteer, we would be happy to work with you, even the younger folks,” added Weisbeck.

“This is a huge necessity for this town since a lot of seniors don’t drive. Almost all the clients are so appreciative of the service, so it gives me great pride to drive – I love it,” she added. Weisbeck has been volunteering in various activities with seniors throughout the community and at Parkview Place for 12 years.

“We are going to get to an age when we will need the help, so it is important this service continues,” she added.

The cost of the car is $2 one way, which is $4 round trip. Tickets can be purchased for $2 each or a book of 10 for $20. Riders do need to call the office at least 15-25 minutes before the appointment and must be ready. Drivers are always happy to help those who use mobility aids such as walkers. Sometimes, the driver may be able to wait for a client at the post office, but it is recommended that the driver is aware before pickup. If a rider is not needing a ride home, please inform the office as well.

“Everyone we pick up, we have to make sure they get home,” said Weisbeck.

The Courtesy Car is available Tuesdays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed over the noon hour. To book a ride with the Courtesy Car, call 306-228-3700.