NEW BRITAIN - Ruby Bordeaux, 89, cruised to One Herald Square in style recently as Mayor Erin Stewart gave the city resident a lift to her dialysis appointment.
Stewart was volunteering her time to Senior Transportation Services, a nonprofit devoted to helping people 55 and over live independently in their homes by providing safe, reliable and economical transportation.
Wednesday, Stewart was the driver for Ruby Bordeaux, a resident and North & Judd factory retiree. Three times a week, Bordeaux needs rides to Herald Square Dialysis for appointments.
“Morning everybody,” Ruby Bordeaux said, greeting the group in her driveway Wednesday morning.
Senior Transportation Services provides transportation in New Britain, Berlin, Meriden, Southington and Wallingford. The operation is made possible by a network of volunteer drivers who drive around eligible residents that are temporarily or permanently unable to transport themselves.
Stewart said she wanted to show support for Senior Transportation Services after money it had previously received through Community Development Block Grants was cut this year.
“That meant that there was going to be probably 500 to 600 rides a year that we weren’t going to be able to provide,” Stewart said.
According to STS, the organization has seen a 37 increase in rides provided in the city over the last three years. It provided 829 rides in fiscal year 2015-16 and 1,137 rides in 2017-18.
The Bordeaux family has seen the need grow recently, too. Henry Bordeaux, Ruby’s son, said he knows the names of all Ruby’s drivers by heart.
“Without them, she wouldn’t have a ride. They’ve been here since day one,” Henry Bordeaux said of STS.
Henry Bordeaux said that it was stressful juggling work, personal life and making sure his mother had timely trips to her appointments.
“Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday were hard, but when we started using these guys my worries were ended right there,” Henry Bordeaux said.
“Ruby’s appreciative - she’s an easy client and just goes with the flow,” said Nancy Morrissey, executive director of Senior Transportation Services.
STS will soon be working in partnership with the New Britain Senior Center to provide eligible residents with affordable transportation to and from out-of-town medical and behavioral health appointments.
STS gives clients rides to appointments including dialysis, chemotherapy/radiation and physical therapy, which generally require more than one ride a week. The service doesn’t only involve medical appointments, as clients can use rides to make pharmacy stops, to get to and from care facilities to visit loved ones and to get to and from banks and credit unions.
STS has 34 volunteer drivers across the communities it serves.
While drivers volunteer their time, they are reimbursed at 40 cents per mile. Morrissey said the organization is hoping to roughly double its volunteers.
STS provides about 2,500 rides last year and provided 956 in the first quarter of this year, outpacing last year.
“Even if you can commit to two rides a week, it helps,” said Susan Kuchman, chairwoman of the Senior Transportation Services Board of Directors.
Morrissey said that a 6- to 12-mile round trip provided by STS would cost between $4 and $8. That same trip would cost much more on a taxi or through Uber or Lyft. While rides often cost a few bucks, the organization also provides free health care transportation to eligible New Britain residents whose income is below $1,022 per month.
For more information about Senior Transportation Services, or to volunteer to become a driver, call Kristina King at 860-224-7117 or Nancy Morrissey at 860-224- 7117.