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Gravelbourg Cares on the road to winning grand prize

It's all up to the votes now as members of the public can choose one of three charities from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to receive $20,000.

GRAVELBOURG – A charity accustomed with transporting people to their medical appointments recently found themselves representing the entire province in a bid to win grand prize funding.

“It’s no longer a Gravelbourg thing, we’re representing Saskatchewan,” said Lynn Holmes, director of Navette Gravelbourg Cares Shuttle Service and one of the group’s founding members. The non-profit was nominated by Hawk’s Agro to be part of Raise the Barn - a funding project by WinField United Canada. Regional winners - which Gravelbourg Cares is one of three - received an $8,000 prize and now a further $20,000 will be awarded to the entity that brings in the most public votes through the WinField United website. People can vote daily until Dec. 12 when the grand prize winner will be announced. Should the shuttle service win the grand prize, the money will go toward assisting in the eventual replacement of the sole van currently being utilized and for the costs to operate the service.

The genesis for the shuttle service sprouted from a dinner party in 2018, when Holmes and co-founder Linda Roberts noticed the frequency at which they were travelling from Gravelbourg to Moose Jaw and Regina.

“It started when two of us realized we were going to the city more often for specialist appointments,” Holmes said. She added that Roberts was facing a decision whether or not to move away from Gravelbourg in order to more easily access services. Roberts discovered a shuttle service operating in Tumbler Ridge, BC - a similar sized community to Gravelbourg. Basing a plan from their template, Navette Gravelbourg Cares Shuttle Service was born. By 2019, the shuttle was on the road

“We’ve started out as a Gravelbourg outfit,” explained Jean Hébert, one of the dispatchers with the shuttle. Word spread through local communities about the service, and ridership increased with an estimated 400 trips made to date.

“People soon discovered that they could pick us up at HB Junction,” Hébert said, noting that people from outlying communities would drive to Gravelbourg, meet at the gas station, then take the shuttle from there to their appointments further on. Currently, the Gravelbourg shuttle serves 14 communities with riders as far away as Ponteix making the trek. Riders from Assiniboia can even utilize the service with a courtesy vehicle through a joint effort from Nelson GM and the Masonic Lodge in that community, which takes riders to meet the shuttle in Gravelbourg.

While there is a “suggested donation” amount, the charity aims to provide a low-cost service for users accessing non-emergency medical services not available in their community.

“It is completely volunteer and donation maintained,” Holmes explained. “We don’t have any government funding.”

Just as the shuttle seemed to hit its stride, the pandemic hit - grounding services for a few months as access to doctor’s offices also temporarily closed. But the group used this time to update the shuttle as per Saskatchewan Health Authority guidelines - including a plexiglass barrier between the driver and passengers. As restrictions lifted, ridership rose again, keeping the 25 volunteers associated with Gravelbourg Cares Shuttle Service busier than ever.

For more information on the shuttle service, they can be reached at (306) 650-7333 or gravelbourgshuttle@gmail.com.

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