Volunteers give seniors ‘wings’ to regain independence

Ted Kilpatrick and Sandy Cook along with Jan and Don Bainbridge, who are also volunteers with the Angel Bus program.

KAGAWONG—Having spent time volunteering at the Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay over the past several years, Sandy Cook knows first hand that many of our seniors don’t have an opportunity to “get out,” which can lead to a loss of independence and community engagement.

Ms. Cook’s father was a resident at the Lodge until his death three years ago and while she was able to take dad out a lot, some seniors are unable to.

The Angel Bus hopes to change that.

Ms. Cook is on the Angel Bus committee and has been a driving force in getting the bus on the road.

A fundraising campaign took off in January and the goal of $50,000 appears to be in reach. As of April 9, the committee has raised $37,411 through the generosity of corporate sponsors, private individuals and other volunteers like Ms. Cook.

“Gloria Hall (activity director at the Lodge) planted the seed,” shared Ms. Cook. The Manitoulin Lodge’s volunteer based Auxiliary is taking the first step in a campaign to raise funds for the purchase and operation of a used wheelchair accessible bus.

The goal of $50,000, stated Ms. Cook, “is to purchase and operate the bus for two years while we get annual fundraising events in place to keep the bus program operational in the years thereafter.”

Ms. Cook and partner Ted Kirkpatrick (both retired veterinarians), along with Don and Jan Bainbridge (who designed the fundraising sign), are among nine people who have volunteered their time to become drivers.

Residents of the Lodge are enthusiastic to take their seats (on the Angel Bus) as they have “places to go, things to see, but we are waiting for the bus.”

Some seniors feel trapped. The Angel Bus will give them wings, shared Ms. Cook. They are already planning where they want to go: the first outing is slated for the April 22 spring concert at Charles C. McLean Public School.

The 25 foot long white bus, which will sport a blue stripe and graphics by Beacon Images, seats nine with space for up to four wheelchairs.

“Support has been amazing,” shared Ms. Cook, with donors such as the Township of Central Manitoulin and Randy Noble Trucking committing not only to this year but to next year as well. Corporate sponsors include Manitoulin Transport, Dean’s Valu Mart and Manitoulin Chrysler. St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Kagawong has also come on board the Angel Bus campaign.

Crowdsourcing is being considered, shared Mr. Kilpatrick.

Ms. Bainbridge said she is impressed with the generosity and support of the community.

Mr. Kilpatrick encourages those who are interested to email theangelbus@hotmail.com, call 705-282-8876 or visit a senior at the Lodge and while there speak with Ms Hall to make a donation.

Volunteers like Ms. Cook make it possible for our seniors to regain their independence by spreading their wings. Thank you Sandy, Ted, Jan and Don!