Senior Transportation Service Appeals For Funds

June 30, 2016

Project Action — a charity which provides free transportation to seniors and the physically challenged — has appealed to the public to help with their funding, saying “the ball is in your court to keep the wheels turning.”

The charity said they need to raise $10,000 by July 15 in order to repair the vehicle and pay outstanding obligations, and if not, the charity will be “forced to shut down permanently.”

Speaking at a press conference, co-founder Cindy Swan said, “The late Judith Stewart and I co-founded Project Action some 18 years ago. We were afternoon readers at the St. George Rest Home.

“The matron called me concerned that there was an approaching storm coming to Bermuda and asked if my husband, Kim Swan, who was at the time the Golf Professional at the St. George’s Golf Club, would be able to lend her some golf carts to take the seniors down the hill.

“I was extremely perplexed at this request because the open golf carts would not have provided much protection in the event of a storm.

“In subsequent chats with her, Judith and I decided to help raise funds to purchase a vehicle for the rest home. We started meeting on a weekly basis before going to the rest home, at Swizzle Inn in Bailey’s Bay, to plan how we would get the funds for the purchase of a vehicle.

“As a matter of fact, our first donation was from a customer at Swizzle Inn, who seemed to have had some libations for lunch, came over and asked what were we doing and when we shared what we were planning, he went into his pocket and gave us all he had in his pocket, which was $7.00 and wished us well.

“In a meeting with the late Sir John Plowman, Kim shared that Judith and I were fundraising to buy a vehicle for the St George’s Rest Home. He offered to help us raise awareness for the cause but before he would totally commit, said we needed to do some homework. He felt the vehicle would be an excellent additional transportation for seniors in the island’s rest homes, but it should be used for more than one rest home.

“Our task was to visit every rest home on the island and see what their transportation needs were, and if they would utilize this sort of service for their residents. We needed to find out how many walkers and how many wheelchair users were in the homes and report back to him. We took about a month and went back to him with the stats we had gathered. He said he was surprised, as he didn’t expect us to come back.

“It was Christmas of 1999 and Sir John Plowman called and said that he had a Christmas gift for us. We thought at best that it may be a box of chocolates.

“To our surprise he wanted us to meet a Mr. David Barber. He told us David had called him as he saw that his wish for the upcoming year was to raise money for a bus for seniors. He scheduled a meeting with the four of us and asked that we bring the statistics we had gathered.

“In the middle of that meeting, David stopped me in the midst of my presentation and said ‘how much money do you need.’ I said, the vehicle cost approximately $80,000 each. Shockingly David pull out his check book, and wrote us a cheque for $160,000.

“Flabbergasted we profusely thank them both and left shortly after. We sat in Sir John’s driveway for some time in awe of what had just happened. To be honest, we didn’t know where to start, as we thought it would take years to raise the funds.

“We decided to have a meeting with my neighbour Mr. Herman Baisden, who at the time was the director at PTB. The information Mr. Baisden shared was extremely valuable. He suggested that we purchase one vehicle first, get that one up and running then purchase the second one.

“Our first vehicle arrived and it was light blue and dark blue. In ordering, we really didn’t notice the colour. Everyone thought it was on purpose so our second vehicle we painted red and blue, to comfort those up in the West end.

“We started the service out of the Centre of Philanthropy office in Hamilton. It was a charity to charity sharing endeavour. Our volunteers, including Judith, Myra Durrant, Mrs. Myrtle Edness. Mrs. Mills, and myself, provided receptionist duties for the Centre of Philanthropy in exchange for a desk and phone for Project Action clients to call and for us to make scheduling.

“Unfortunately, the Centre moved and grew and we were out on our own.

“We schedule rides to all the rest homes on island, giving the homes a minimum of two rides per month. Initially with just the blue bus service, Project Action was fortunate to operate with only volunteers. Our dedicated volunteer bus drivers included the late Raul Clementino, Rev. Rodney Grimes, Ms. Glenda Maduro and others who gave graciously of their time to give our seniors a drive out from the monotony routine of their rest home lives.

“We found affordable office space in St. George and rented a small office on Rose Hill from the Corporation of St. George, where we are still presently located. The office is managed by retired school teacher, Mrs. Rose Douglas. The office is used for various things, including managing the buses, helping seniors with photocopying and other uses.

“We were inundated with calls for individual rides. Many sad calls from family members who could not get their loved ones to medical appointments. Many children and relatives called asking for assistance saying they could not take any more time off from work and really was in need of this type of transportation for their elderly love ones.

“The late F. John Barritt was on our board at this time and we decided to order the second bus and designated that bus to taking on individuals. This was to be a door to door service. In providing this essential service, we also recognized that we needed to hire a driver. Up until this time we operated strictly with only volunteers.

“We didn’t know it at the time, but we really hit the jackpot when we hired Ernest DeGrilla aka Shooby, who came highly recommended to us. He’s been a Godsend for so many and gets very attached to his passengers. Many times he calls, sharing that he opened up the newspaper and there was a picture of one of his passengers.

“Many times he was even more saddened by the fact relatives did not see the need to inform him before reading the obituary. Shooby was paid as a part time employee but he worked diligently and later than was expected of him.

“Project Action has provided thousands of rides to thousands of people over the years. We have taken seniors to Cup Match, Christmas Boat Parades, and to St. George’s and Dockyard for drive outs.

“We were fortunate to receive funding from various corporate sponsors and would like to make special mention of Rubis for providing free diesel for over 16 years; truly without this major contribution, the wheels would have stopped turning long before now.

“Our former major sponsor, Validus Re, we thank you. We also thank Equator Re, whose donation kept the wheels turning for the last year.

“This is where the rubber meets the road. We cannot afford to keep the wheels running without any funds. Our appeal today is to seek funding from corporate Bermuda, the Bermuda government, and the entire Bermuda community. If you would like for us to continue providing free transportation for seniors and the physically challenged, we need your financial support.

“We no longer have the blue bus as we loaned it to Summerhaven in good faith and running and in good condition and were told last year that it was not repairable and it would have to be sold for parts, which they have done. Our present vehicle needs parts and the parts alone are in excess of $3,000 exclusive of labour.

“Seniors and the physically challenged rely on Project Action for this service – our dialysis patients to their doctors’ appointments. Recently Keith Simmons, who works in the Government Senior office, relied on the Project Action vehicle to get him to work as his own vehicle was in the garage for repairs.

“We know that the ongoing recession affected local charities; the grassroots ones, especially, are suffering as we ride under the bigger charity radars. But I can honestly share that Project Action has filled transportation gaps for seniors island-wide. The dialysis passengers are not out for a joy ride, they need those weekly treatments; without dialysis treatments, death is imminent.

“When we first started, some said it wasn’t a viable project. When we did get it off and running others shared they give us two years and we were not sustainable, giving free services to seniors and the physically challenged. Corporate Bermuda, the Bermuda Government, and the Bermuda community, we need you to step up to the wicket.

“Years ago when Project Action was faced with closure, having just completed a consultancy project, I donated $10,000 dollars that kept the service in operation.

“As our last option, we are making a last ditch appeal to the community. What do we need? For an immediate band aid remedy, we need to raise $10,000 by July 15th to repair the vehicle and pay our outstanding obligations. If not, the charity will be forced to shut down permanently.

“We need commitment for additional donations. Our annual budget is $110,000. We need a new vehicle at a cost of approximately $65,000.

“The onus has to be on all the stakeholders – Corporate Bermuda, Bermuda Government and the community at large to make the decision whether we continue to give the seniors who don’t live near a bus stop, can’t afford taxi fare, don’t have relatives to assist them to get to their medical appointments, and rely on Project Action for their free mode of transportation.

“The ball is in your court to keep the wheels turning.”

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Comments (12)

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  1. Curious says:

    This type of public appeal raises a number of important issues about the nature of philanthropy in Bermuda.

    The burning question is how does an organisation that starts off so well end up here?

    Is this model still applicable in Bermuda today?

    Additional Questions are:

    1) How many seniors do they service in a day, week, month, year?
    2) Where are current financial statements and an overview of this services found?
    3) Could this be done better under a strong administration structure like the Salvation Army or Age Concern?
    4) What are the other transportation services available that can assist our seniors and other special populations?

    With all the mini-buses on island and with Americas Cup pending, it may be more cost effective to outsource this service and have a donor(s) pay the min-bus service directly to transport our people.

    The existing mini-bus service will already have the capacity to book and bill for services.

    • Portia says:

      Curious,

      I am not an expert on the inner-workings of Project Action, but my husband does have a disability and has had to rely on the service at various times in the past. I believe that an organization that started out well has likely gotten to this point simply due to the rapidly growing need that exists on the Island. There are far, far more seniors and disabled folks that need this service then Project Action can accommodate. Shooby (bless him) frequently leaves St. George’s at the crack of dawn and does continous runs until the late afternoon, taking people to dialysis, doctors appointments, etc.

      What other transportation services do we have for seniors and the disabled? Not much. There are only about 3 or 4 wheelchair taxis on the Island that willingly cater to the disabled and seniors – but they are not cheap. The buses are not wheelchair accessible, unless you can get out of your chair and carry it on the bus yourself and fold it up. But not all sidewalks are accessible, so you can’t catch the bus everywhere. Rockaway ferry is accessible, and maybe a couple of other ferries, but if you don’t live near them…you’re out of luck. Government (both sides of the fence) have made no real efforts at all to offer transportation to seniors and the disabled, both local and tourists, to their utter shame.

      Your idea of the mini bus might work, except it is extremely unlikely that the Island’s current fleet of mini buses are equipped with ramps and straps to allow a person in a chair to wheel in (they are “mini” buses after all”). This would likely involve purchasing new type mini buses, and the costs of maintaining them may be more than the $110,000 per year that P.A. currently manages as their budget.

      Could Project Action do better under the banner of the S.A. or Age Concern? Maybe. But that simply just shifts the costs from one charity to another (which are both already strained), it doesn’t reduce it. To my knowledge, neither S.A. nor Age Concern has any similar disabled transportation service that does what Project Action does.

      I will gladly donate to keep Project Action running, because, speaking from experience, I know there is very little else out there. Many families rely on this service, it would be a real blow to lose it.

    • frank says:

      Not all mini buses can carry. Wheel. Chairs

  2. Fantasea says:

    Guess who is going to step to the plate… the ex pat. You know those pple u don’t want here. Sorry but after reading some of the comments by one of the founders some months ago, my dollar will go somewhere else.

    • Ex Pat says:

      I’m an ex-pat and know her too, she was respectful in her comments about her position. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Lets not get personal, this is about the Seniors, not anyone’s personal agenda.

      If you care not to donate, don’t.

      • Action for PA says:

        By the way she’s and ExPat who was supporting the Bermudians just as expat started a charity to help all Bermudians Seniors.

        • Action for PA says:

          By the way she’s an ExPat who was supporting the Bermudians and furthermore as an expat she started the charity to help all Bermudians Seniors.

  3. Shame says:

    Obviously Project Action has a structure in place. Not many charities could of lasted 18 years or more without one.

    There are no other services on island that provides this type of service, free of charge transport to seniors and wheel chair persons.

    I know all this, as I have volunteered with this charity on numerous projects.

    Project Action has maintained their Charity Status, hence they must be financially accountable.

    Many corporate organizations would not of fund a charity that did not have proper financials.

    It seems as you have a negative review of Project Action and if that is the case I suggest you contact them to voice your opinion, instead of trying to block them from continuing to grant this service island wide to our seniors that depends on this service.

    Having had a family member who now don’t have transportation to his weekly dialysis treatments, they are the ones suffering. Shame on you!!!!!

    You talk of charging a fee – Project Action has never charged anyone a fee.

    Shame on you.

  4. Um Um Like says:

    Why doesn’t Preserve Marriage step in? They were great at transporting seniors around last week!

  5. Curious? Malicious says:

    Why have so many businesses in Bermuda closed down?

    Why have so many people in Bermuda lost the job?

    Why Why Why?

    The Economy?

    Lack of support from volunteers?

    Project Action serves Seniors with free services – if you continued to give free services and the economy is at its worst worldwide, you should know the answers to your malicious mischievous queries.

    Project Action hold your head all high. Shooby and Rose are darlings and we will support. Please include your banking information

  6. Cindy Swan says:

    Thanks for all your comments. Project Action books are all in order and available for review to anyone wishing to make donation.

    Donations can be made online at Butterfield Bank, account #20006060282255100

    Shooby and Rose Douglas are among the two people who are the present front line contact people and both seniors working hard for seniors island-wide.

    As Rose shared, this service if vital to our seniors. They should not have to live within 4 walls because they can not afford or have family to take them out. They put on their Sunday best waiting for these rides. They have given so much, it is not our time to give back to them, without thinking of a profit margin, or placing a price tag on them getting out. A 100% of our donations go into providing the service.

    We started with $7.00, any donation will help

  7. Helping hands says:

    At the senior home I worked, Project Action’s service was used and words can not describe how happy those ladies and men were to get a ride out. One driver would purchase ice cream for them. Seniors are like children once again, they need care and love and stimulation. The project action buses provides this. Give what you can afford, if we all gave $15.00 it could help.

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