Windsor Senior Bus Society, Now CommUNITY Bus NS, Provides “A Window to the World”
By Ethan Lang
The Windsor Senior Bus Society (WSBS) has had a renaissance of sorts over the past year. The non-profit service has offered accessible transport for residents of local senior homes in Kings and Hants since 1985, but the scope of the Society is now expanding. Late last month, they held an event in Windsor to announce plans for the coming year. The bus service offered by the WSBS is now registered under a new name, CommUNITY Bus NS, with license to provide
service province-wide. Two buses have been added to the fleet and fundraising efforts are close to reaching the goal of purchasing a state-of-the-art replacement for their original 36-seater flagship vehicle.
The WSBS advertises itself as a “window to the world” for many seniors and disabled persons who would otherwise be isolated in homes or rural areas. These new plans are aimed at increasing the Society’s ability to keep people in these circumstances connected to the larger community. As Society president Leslie Porter notes, “Many seniors would not get out of the home without this service.” In this way, the Society provides a social and emotional service, as
well as transit.
As the WSBS looks to expand, it’s hard to believe that as recently as four years ago it looked to be on the brink of collapse. At the time, funds were low and the only bus in the service needed major tune-ups in order to stay on the road.
Despite the dire outlook, the Society, which is run solely by volunteers, put in serious efforts to revive the service. The group held auctions on Facebook, tupperware parties, and painting fundraisers. Acadia Kinesiology students helped raise funds, and donations came in from local groups, including the Windsor and Mud Creek Rotaries, the Dr. Crowe Foundation, West Hants Family and Community First, and 100 Valley Women Who Care. Due to the broad nature of the service the Society provides, they do not qualify for many specific government grants, and therefore rely heavily on this kind of private support from the community.
Aside from financial contributions, local businesses helped out with bus repair and maintenance: Windsor OK Tire provided tires, and XL Truck and Equipment offered bus storage and mechanical expertise. Citizens in the community have done their part too. Local Fred Ward provided removal and printing of graphic designs and ads on the buses, free of charge, while lead bus driver Roy Sanford and mechanic Dave White have gone above and beyond to maintain general vehicle upkeep.
Through these efforts and others, the original bus was brought up to code and has remained in service. Since then, the Society has been anything but complacent. Last year, Callow Wheelchair Buses, who provided similar services in the HRM, announced they were discontinuing service after 2018. WSBS approached them, resulting in the transfer of two of Callow’s smaller wheelchair buses, as well as their Motor Carrier License, which was approved in February. The service Callow provided to volunteers, seniors, youth, and disabled persons in the HRM has now resumed under the operation of the WSBS. The continuation of operations was welcomed in Halifax, as no other transportation alternatives exist in the area for those with accessibility difficulties. Heather White, director of veterans services and geriatrics at Camp Hill, where veterans receive free bus service, was happy to see the WSBS take up the job: “The veterans at Camp Hill have benefited from the excursions on the Callow Buses over the past 70 years,” she says. “We look forward to the same dedicated and dependable service going forward with Windsor Senior Citizens Bus Society.”
In addition to the two buses acquired through Callow, the WSBS is hoping to add a brand-new bus to the fleet, which would replace their original. Although the original is restored, it is now 14 years old and cannot accommodate larger wheelchairs on its lift. The new bus will seat 36 passengers, with full accessibility to all, top of the line safety features, and bigger windows, so seniors and those with disabilities get a better view on their drive.
The WSBS is now approximately $14 000 shy of their $250 000 goal for the bus, and have announced a three week long online auction which they hope could be the final push toward purchasing a replacement. The auction, which will be run through the Society’s Facebook page, begins May 22 and will offer the public a chance to bid on all sorts of items donated from the community.
Other developments for the Community Bus N.S. include a new student marketing position to be filled for the summer, and the option for charter rentals to the public. Rentals will be available for half day, full day, or by mileage. The group is remaining not-for-profit, but will use revenue from charters to fund its primary purpose of accessible transportation in Kings-Hants.