From the back seat, listening in to conversation between Brenda Bain and Cathy Hunt, it’s clear to see the pair enjoy a special relationship borne out of familiarity, camaraderie, and trust.
The two spend a few hours together on the road every week. Bain is a volunteer driver with Haliburton Highlands Health Services’ door-to-door transportation program, with Hunt one of the 876 registered clients that rely on the service to get them to and from various health-related appointments and programs within the County’s borders and beyond.
While Bain has been driving for HHHS Community Support Services for the past 13 months, her history with the organization goes back more than a decade. She was the administrative assistant for the branch, located on the grounds beside the Haliburton hospital, for 14 years before retiring in early 2020.
Rewarding from door to door
She had intended to start driving right away, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed things. Now, Bain seems like she’s making up for lost time. She runs regular routes within the County twice per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and takes on one or two longrange journeys each month.
She estimates driving 17,000 kilometres since March 2022, with trips to Peterborough, Huntsville, Bracebridge, Lindsay, Ottawa, Pickering, and Kingston on her resume.
“I just love everything about it,” Bain told The Highlander. “I love being able to give back and support people. When you’re traveling, it’s mostly one-on-one, so you really get to know people.”
Transportation coordinator Janet Burley said the program has been running for over 30 years. She schedules approximately 20 trips each day. While she has 46 registered drivers on her roster, only 12 are considered active. New recruits are always welcome.
While designated as volunteers, drivers don’t make trips completely out of pocket. They’re reimbursed 48 cents for every kilometre driven, with 30 cents of that covered by the patient and the rest of the tab picked up by HHHS. There’s a meal allowance included, while expenses such as parking are also covered.
Hunt said she’s always made a point of taking care of her drivers, paying for breakfast during early morning runs to Toronto, and coffee and donuts for shorter-range trips. She’s been enrolled in the program since 2003, noting she hasn’t had a negative experience in the 20 years since. “We needed someone who would drive us to the city so my husband, Bev, could get hip replacement surgery,” Hunt said of how she started. “I can’t do long trips driving, and I can’t drive in Toronto. If it wasn’t for HHHS and the volunteer drivers, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Since then, Hunt has been driven south around a dozen times for surgeries and follow-up appointments of her own, having had extensive work done on both her hips and knees. Recently, due to a lingering eye problem, she’s had to give up driving altogether. That made it impossible for her to get out to the adult day program HHHS runs in Minden – until she made a call.
Now, Bain picks her up twice a week at her home in West Guilford and drives her to Minden, making the return trip in the afternoon.
“I’d just be sitting at home, not getting out and socializing if I didn’t have this,” Hunt said. “This is a vital service. For people like me who can’t drive, it’s a genuine lifesaver.” And there are benefits for the drivers too.
“I’ve made so many new friends since I started to do this. I look forward to these drives all week,” Bain said. “It’s just so rewarding. I like to think I’m making a difference.”
To learn more, visit hhhs.ca/community-programs/ transportation. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer driver can contact Brigitte Gebauer at email@example.com.