The Te Awamutu Community Health Shuttle recently celebrated its 10th year of operation, and at a recent social event, all those who have contributed to its success were thanked by chair Robyn Atherton.
The event was attended by many who had assisted in financial or practical ways and included some who had been involved since its inception.
A brief history of the establishment of the service was given, along with a description of where the organisation currently stands.
Te Awamutu Courier has been supporting the development and work of the trust since the beginning.
In July 2009 we reported the event where various local agencies invited the public to discuss the merits of a community shuttle service.
Brian Trimm from the Matamata Community Health Shuttle Service attended and outlined how their successful service operated, and answered questions from the floor.
From that meeting a steering committee was formed and in November 2009 we reported the 11 volunteers on the group had undertaken a feasibility study and determined a community service was feasible.
In February 2010 the project was given the 'green light'. We reported a charitable trust was to be established to fundraise for and run the operation.
In July 2010, the Te Awamutu Community Health Transport Trust, with Katherine O'Regan as chair, was established after several years of public meetings with representatives from Lions, Rotary, RSA, Te Awamutu Home Support, Community Waikato and more.
Feasibility studies had been carried out and it was decided that a service to transport Te Awamutu residents to health-related appointments in Hamilton and Te Kuiti would be of enormous benefit to the community.
Serious fundraising was undertaken with numerous grant applications made. Lion Foundation and Sky City Community Trust were the major sponsors, but donations from other local service clubs contributed greatly.
Garage sales were also held.
Te Awamutu Community Health Transport Trust purchased their first van, a Ford Transit, in 2011 and the service started on April 11 that year.
The Citizens Advice Bureau agreed to manage the bookings and a co-ordinator was appointed.
From the beginning demand was high and by May 2013 a Mazda people mover had been purchased to meet that need.
"We are very grateful to the Te Awamutu Rotary Club, which helped with funding for this van by purchasing signage rights for seven years," says Robyn.
"In the last two years we have replaced the original vehicles with two Mercedes Sprinter vans, one of which can carry two wheelchair clients.
"This was possible thanks to a several very successful grant applications and wonderful generosity and support from the local community and service clubs."
The trust also received a number of bequests from deceased estates, and is grateful to the families who thought of us in such times of sadness.
"We are very lucky to have wonderful garage on land donated by the Anglican Church which was built and funded as a 100-year project by the Lions Club of Te Awamutu," says Robyn.
"This means we are in a very good position to carry on this valuable service without any major capital expense for a good number of years.
"From modest beginnings in 2011, over the last five years we have taken an average of 1400 clients each year to appointments.
"It is a growing and evolving service, and we find ourselves travelling further afield and having earlier starts and later finishes to our days.
"This can necessitate up to five trips to Hamilton some days, and often both vans are on the road."
Robyn says the trust is fortunate to have 37 wonderful volunteers who give their time to make sure people are able to attend their appointments.
"We are constantly receiving comments on how supportive and helpful they are, and that they go the extra mile to ensure the comfort of our clients.
"We are always looking to add to our list of volunteers, so if you feel that you have one or two days a month that you could give to this very worthwhile organisation you are welcome to contact us."
The trust has always maintained that the service will be funded by donations – from clients who use the shuttle, and from the organisations who continue to support them.
Robyn says this model has worked very well, but with the rising minimum wage and increasing complexity of the service, it is very important for the continuation of the organisation that these donations continue.
If you would like to donate to the Health Shuttle, or volunteer your services, call Robyn, 871 6846. Donations can also be made directly to Te Awamutu Community Health Transport Trust bank account 06-0317-0944851-00.
The booking service is available on 870 3258 from 9am-3.30pm weekdays, preferably at least 24 hours prior to the appointment.