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For elderly, vulnerable people everyday tasks like going to the shops, meeting new people or seeing family can be difficult, and sometimes even impossible due to health or mobility issues.
However the kind-hearted drivers at Chiltern-Dial-a-Ride (CDAR), in Chesham, go above and beyond to put a smile on their faces, as Bucks Free Press reporter Shruti Sheth Trivedi found.
Sue Bree, from Chalfont St Giles, one of the charity’s paid drivers, picked me up outside Shopmobility for a drive-around so I could see how they worked and the difference they make to the people of the Chiltern, Wycombe and South Bucks districts who need it most.
I was immediately impressed by Sue’s warmth and kindness. Nothing was too much trouble and she was more than happy to answer all my questions, no matter how silly they seemed.
The first two passengers I spoke to were Linda Gould, 62, and Irene Hutton, 63, both from High Wycombe.
From the start it was clear CDAR’s services are much-needed across south Bucks.
Irene, who uses the service twice every week, said: “They’re brilliant – wonderful. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to go out shopping because I couldn’t carry the shopping as well as using my walker.
“They bring the shopping into the house. They don’t just leave it in there, they take it into the kitchen.
“I have family and friends but it’s just nicer to be able to do it yourself.”
Linda used the former Wycombe-Dial-a-Ride for 21 years, and now uses CDAR once a week, saying it is the only way she can get into town to do her shopping as she has no friends or family nearby.
She said: “They’re really fantastic.”
Irene added: “The staff talk to you, which is good. They take you everywhere too, doctors and things, it’s not just shopping.”
When dropping the two ladies off, I watched Sue very patiently doing exactly what they had described – taking them and their shopping into their homes for them, while I waited in the van – and she did it all with a smile.
On our way to pick up the next set of passengers from Shopmobility to take them to Marlow, I spoke to Sue, 57, who has been with CDAR for about 18 months, more about her job.
She said: “I think it’s an excellent service. A lot of the people who use it love it.
“For a lot of them, like Linda, we’re possibly the only people she sees all week. We [build] a nice little rapport with them.”
She said her favourite part of the job is when she goes in to pick or drop off the users because it allows her to see how they live, adding: “We are more than just a taxi service that drops off and picks people up.
We picked up Irene Anderson, 73, and Marion Mann, 85, to drop them off to their respective homes in Marlow Bottom and Marlow.
Irene said: “I use them most weeks twice to do my shopping, and once every other week to go to the hairdressers.
“The drivers are all very, very helpful. I don’t know how I would manage without them.”
Marion said: “They come and knock at my door and take my buggy up my steps for me, and bring my shopping in for me, so they are very helpful.
“[Without CDAR] I would have to rely on my son who lives in Aylesbury to take me shopping when he comes over at the weekend.
“It gives you little more independence to be able to do your own shopping.”
CDAR chairman David Ouvry said demand in the Wycombe district, where they started operating around two years ago, is rising, with more people needing to use their services than ever before.
He said: “We are now running at an average of over 550 passenger journeys a month.
“Demand for our services continues to rise. The only limiting factor for us is the number of drivers we have. Our team…is constantly at full stretch.”
For this reason, the charity, which has six paid and 20 volunteer drivers, urgently needs more drivers. To get involved call 01494 766123.