St John Te Puke Health Shuttle volunteers celebrated the service's first birthday recently.

The service, which began on July 1 2018, has had demand increase steadily throughout the year, with the busiest day experienced in May 2019 assisting with 17 patient trips.
February was the busiest month, with 126 trips booked.

St John Te Puke area chairwoman Lyn Govenlock praised the team's effort in providing 913 trips for Te Puke and Pāpāmoa locals to Tauranga for medical appointments.

"Our shuttle volunteers contributed 1923 hours to provide this service," she said. "That's nearly the equivalent of a full-time position that has been willingly provided collectively by the team members voluntarily."

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St John Te Puke has received approval to continue the service permanently, with fundraising to start shortly to buy a vehicle to replace the former St John Marton shuttle that has been the mainstay of service delivery through this first year.

"Adding another nearly 30,000km to the vehicle during the year has highlighted how tired that vehicle is becoming," Lyn said. "While the vehicle has only twice needed to be taken out of service due to breakdowns, it is a huge inconvenience for all concerned, including customers who may need to find alternative transport at fairly short notice."

St John Te Puke continues to attract more shuttle volunteers.

"It's a great community volunteering experience – I love it," said shuttle volunteer Malcolm Ward.

"It's a great day, interacting with very grateful clients, given that what we do for them does not require huge levels of technical skill, other than driving competence and good customer service attitudes.

"Anyone interested is invited to ride alongside a crew to see what the job entails before committing to the role, said Lyn. "It's a 'try before you buy' opportunity." Anyone interested in considering volunteering as a shuttle volunteer can email jim.datson@stjohn.org.nz