The ladies, who typically donate the money from their annual “Lights of Love” fundraiser towards big-ticket items in the Raymond Care Centre, have purchased several pieces of equipment over the years.
In 2012 the organization purchased a number of oversized wheelchairs for the lab department and then began work on their “ultrasound wish-list,” said president Donna Coppieters during a 60-year celebration last year.
This year, the club didn’t have any big ticket items to purchase so they donated the money to the Magrath Handi-Bus, said president Brian Oliver.
“We subsidize the rides for people and people from Magrath go over to the Raymond Hospital now, so they see our handi-bus trotting over there so they decided they would donate some money to us,” added Magrath Handi-Bus treasurer Liz Davidson.
“From our understanding they gave the Raymond Handi-Bus money last year, and there are people from Magrath who are members of the ladies auxiliary over in Raymond,” explained Oliver.
“I didn’t know anything about it until they approached me and said they wanted to give me some money and I said OK.”
Although the money “won’t be earmarked for anything special,” it will ensure the day-to-day operations of the Magrath Handi-Bus continue in the community.
“The ridership doesn’t pay a tenth of what it costs to run the bus. The fee we charge, I’m going to say is around $4-5,000 a year, and it costs $30,000 to run that bus for a year,” he said of the daily operations.
“So the money that keeps the bus running is typically from casinos. Between every casino we get and the fees we charge is kind of a breaking even thing, because you only get a casino once every two to three years.”
The amount of money earned at each casino usually correlates with how long the organization will have to wait until they are eligible to participate in one again.
“Back in the beginning of casinos you’d probably get one a year, but you’d only get $8-10,000. So now we get a casino once every two to three years but you get $30,000,” he said of the payout progression.
“So the time from casino to casino is getting longer, but the amount of money is going up, so it’s kind of the same but it’s a tough way to run a business.”
Even if the amount the bus was used was increased, it only certifiably guarantees that expenses and daily wear will go up as well.
“On the town newsletter, that comes with the water bill, the handi-bus has a blurb on there that has the rates. The minutes for the handi-bus can also be found on the town website,” Oliver said.
“And if you have to add a person that is going to Raymond or Lethbridge the fee goes up by $5 and is then divided between the two people. So if you had two people going to Raymond now the fee would be $20 and is divided by two so it’s $10 each. Same for Lethbridge, except it would be $15 each.”
A service that it utilized “quite a bit” within the area, it provided cheap and reliable transportation for many seniors to see their doctor, do their shopping or even grab some lunch.
“We appreciate all the help and we definitely appreciate the Raymond Ladies Auxiliary for doing that. We don’t get any government funding and buses are very expensive,” he said of the daily struggles for a non-profit organization. “New buses are give or take $100,000 . . . our bus has been running for like 20 years.”
However Oliver says one of the reasons he feels the Magrath bus is successful is because the drivers are paid, rather than relying on volunteers to commit their time. All drivers for the Magrath Handi-Bus are also required to be licensed.
“We are paying the driver to do this (service), and sometimes when they take the seniors to Lethbridge they have to wait four or five hours at a time, so it’s really subsidizing our seniors,” said Davidson. “This is really good for the seniors and we are glad to do this service for them.”
For more information on the Magrath Handi-Bus, or to view their minutes, please visit the town website at http://www.magrath.ca.