Although the Gravelbourg Cares Shuttle was required to make some adjustments since launching their services in July 2019, the volunteer-run initiative has proven to be a great option for nondrivers in rural communities who require transportation to larger centres. “We started out thinking we could run this for two days,” said Linda Roberts, one of the original founders of Gravelbourg Cares. “But Monday and Thursday didn’t work out. People weren’t able to make appointments on those particular days,” Roberts admitted.
So, the organizers of the shuttle service designed to bring people living in communities like Assiniboia, Mossbank and Gravelbourg to their medical appointments in Moose Jaw, Regina and Swift Current decided to expand their operations schedule. Now, the shuttle runs four days a week from Monday to Thursday. Gravelbourg Cares has also managed to accumulate 10 drivers and four dispatchers to keep the service moving without any snags. “We basically have a driver available every day of the month for those four days,” Roberts said.
This non-profit is fuelled by donations by groups such as the Town of Gravelbourg and the Assiniboia Kinsmen. Private and corporate donations along with grants have also helped to sustain this volunteer effort. Meanwhile, community businesses such as Marcel’s Repair Centre in Gravelbourg have assisted the non-profit by donating winter tires for the eight-passenger shuttle owned by Gravelbourg Cares, which became a charitable outfit in December.
When the government closed the Saskatchewan Transportation Company in 2017, private bus companies were expected to materialize as replacements for those requiring transit services in rural Saskatchewan. Yet, attempts to form privately-run bus companies in Saskatchewan have proven to be unsustainable. “They said the private companies will fill in that gap, but the only reason we’re running is because we’re volunteers and we’ve got the support of the community,” Roberts said as she conveyed the importance of this community service.
Presently, Gravelbourg Cares has runs to Moose Jaw (suggested donation: $40), Regina (suggested donation: $50) Swift Current (suggested donation: $45) and Assiniboia (suggested donation: $35). Companions are able to ride with a passenger for half the cost of a recommended donation. Also, the volunteer drivers are paid a $20 honorarium. “We are not self-sufficient yet, but that is our goal,” Roberts continued.
The Gravelbourg Cares shuttle is not meant for shopping trips. In underlining this point, Roberts said all passengers are only allowed one shopping bag per trip. Still, the bus also ventures out on wellness excursions at least once a month, which focus on a broader scope beyond medical needs. In December, the Gravelbourg Cares shuttle brought passengers to the Shurniak Gallery’s Community Christmas Open House event on a wellness excursion. Generally, the shuttle leaves from the HB Junction Service Station in Gravelbourg from Mondays to Thursdays, but the pick-up points are flexible. However, all passengers must phone ahead to make arrangements. To book their rides to Regina, Moose Jaw or Swift Current for appointments, passengers are advised to call Gravelbourg Cares at 306-650-7333 in advance.