Local volunteer Thomas Stica

Wheels for Wellness comes to West Coast

A unique opportunity just opened up for anyone who put volunteering on their News Year’s resolution list.

A unique opportunity just opened up for anyone who put volunteering on their News Year’s resolution list.

The Wheels for Wellness Society kicked off a three-month pilot project on the West Coast last week.

The program began in Comox in 1997 and is designed to get people living in rural communities to their medical appointments in larger cities like Victoria and Nanaimo.

“The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Health Network has contacted us and said there’s a lot of people here that can’t get to their appointments,” society member and volunteer driver Don Buchner told the Westerly News.

“It’s a door to door service…We’ll pick you up at your door, drive you to your appointment, wait for you and drive you back home again.”

The trips are for non-emergency medical appointments only and donations are encouraged.

“When you make a donation, that donation is to the Wheels for Wellness Society therefore any amount is a reasonable one,” according to the society’s website. “Receipts for income tax purposes will be issued for any donation of $20 or more.”

Buchner said Wheels for Wellness operates throughout Vancouver Island and currently has 17 vans on the road.

Volunteer drivers are needed for the West Coast program and Buchner encourages anyone interested in getting behind the wellness wheel to contact him at jdbuchner@shaw.ca or 250-897-6359.

“You need a desire to drive. We’ll run you through everything else you need,” he said adding all necessary training is provided.

He hopes locals will take advantage of the opportunity to “do good things for their community and help out folks in their community,” by signing on to volunteer like he did nearly two decades ago.

“I’m still doing it after 19 years…when I go home at night and I’m dead tired I throw my feet up and I’ve done something good for somebody and it feels good,” he said.

He noted volunteer drivers have all their expenses, including meals, reimbursed.

“It costs the driver absolutely nothing but on the flip side of the coin they’re not going to make any money either,” he said. “It’s just a feel good thing more than anything.”

The pilot program will run until April 1.

“If it’s successful and the numbers justify having the vehicle over here then the game-plan is for the players on the peninsula to get together and pay for this van,” he said.

“Then it stays over here and Wheels for Wellness will provide the operational costs to run it.”

He said the van cost about $34,000 and suggested corporate donations could help pay for it and any company that contributes would get a decal on the van as well as exposure on the Wheels for Wellness website.

He added local governments could pitch in as well.

“If the seven communities pay for it its $5,000 a piece,” he said.

Buchner brought the van to Ucluelet on Dec. 31 and met with local volunteer Thomas Stica who told the Westerly he’s excited to drive for the cause.

“I like to volunteer for the community and be part of something good,” Stica said.

“I think this is a good thing that will help out people around the area.”