New Freedom Bus meets 'priority need' in community

 

VICTORVILLE — Officials providing a transportation service for low-income seniors and the disabled are trying to augment grant funding that will lapse at the end of June.

The Victor Valley Community Services Council’s New Freedom Bus program was awarded an initial grant last year under the state’s Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program. But that funding, about $22,000, will end June 30 and the program awards have changed.

Until similar funding is awarded and made available — within an expected two- to six-month gap — alternative sources will have to be found, officials said. Based on the annual funding received this year, that would leave the program short from $3,600 to $11,000, depending on the number of months in the gap.

“Our program has been identified as a priority need in this community by community leaders such as Kaiser and St. Mary, regarding access to health care,” Midge Nicosia, the group’s executive director, said in reference to community health-care providers Kaiser Permanente and St. Joseph Health, St. Mary. “We’re providing that extra care; we’re door-to-door. It is for individuals who have difficulty with regular transportation.”

The program actually began in April with the gift of the 14-passenger bus, which includes a lift for wheelchairs, from Victor Valley Transit Agency. The transit authority’s general manager, Kevin Kane, said at that time the bus extends transportation opportunities to people and places VVTA can’t reach.

That type of service is being recognized by local and regional transportation planners as a need to be filled.

One idea for stop-gap operations funding is to lease space for sponsor logos on the rear of the bus. Nicosia seeks up to six businesses who will partner with the council for six to 12 months.

“This bus goes all over the High Desert,” Nicosia said, and provides exposure Monday through Thursday along its extensive routes. The bus is used to serve the areas of Apple Valley, Victorville, Phelan, Hesperia, Adelanto and parts of Lucerne Valley and Barstow.

Nicosia said her organization is grateful for the support VVTA provides beyond the gift of the bus, including performing maintenance and housing the vehicle.

Lining up support for a local agency’s program such as New Freedom Bus takes teamwork and time. Some of the target grants are not expected to be approved and funded until late this year or early 2016, said Aaron Moore, mobility manager for Victor Valley Transit Authority. He said his agency is looking at how it can come up with interim assistance.

“We consider it to be a valuable program,” Moore said.

Those seeking information on sponsor opportunities may call the community services council office to inquire and qualify at 760-243-9646.

Seniors and those with disabilities who wish to use the bus also must call the council office.

From vvdailypress.com