By Sue Moore
The Vicksburg-based Metro Van service which provides door-to-door transportation for residents, gained new leadership last month. And in another month, county voters will be asked to renew a tax in part intended to continue the service.
Kathy Corea, volunteer scheduler of the service, which operates out of the South County Community Services (SCCS) office since that agency acquired the van three years ago, has retired. Corea refined the system so it works efficiently to pick up and drop off passengers on time and with little cost to those who qualify. She was assisted by Polly Youngs in the first two years the van was located in Vicksburg.
“It’s like a crazy quilt to provide the service, but people love it so much and need it for getting to doctors’ appointments, rehabilitation at the hospitals, and even food deliveries for a few people who can’t get out to shop,” said Patty Brown. She has taken over the scheduling from Corea as of March 1, also as a volunteer.
Brown is from Indianapolis and moved here after retirement to be near her daughter’s family. She has since retired as a patient registration specialist at the Family Health Center in Kalamazoo and now serves the community as a new volunteer.
“Our challenge is getting the word out to seniors and the disabled to call SCCS to set up hospital visits, nursing home calls and other transportation needs. We like to know a week in advance but if need be, we can work people in. Kathy has even taken people in her own car if the van isn’t available,” Brown said.
The service has 13 volunteer drivers but could certainly use more Corea said. “Some folks don’t have an alternative for transportation. Our drivers are so accommodating. They will stay with a rider during their appointment, help them on and off the van, and look out for their safety.”
Bob Goertler of Vicksburg is one of these volunteers. He is an assistant van driver for wheelchair clients. “I meet people at their door, because the driver has a lot going on just dealing with the vehicle. It takes team work to be sure that passengers are safe and secure when they reach their destination. We even help to deliver food commodities on some days. I’ve always wanted to give back to this community so helping out with the van service is rewarding,” Goertler said.
The funding for this service comes from the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority. It’s authorization of 0.4 mills, 40 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation, expires in 2016. A reauthorization for another five years has been placed on the ballot for a vote on Tuesday, May 3. The amount requested is 0.315 mills, a slight reduction.
The community service van sharing program is county wide, serving senior citizens and individuals with disabilities. SCCS alone logged 430 rides in 2015, including 29 wheel chair families who depend upon the service as a lifeline according to Danna Downing, the SCCS executive director.