Victor Valley Transit Authority (VVTA) logged a major milestone in its initiative to mobilize the High Desert region, donating a paratransit bus to Victor Valley Community Services Council's (VVCSC) New Freedom Program on Monday.
The event marks a partnership that will dramatically extend services to mobility-impaired senior citizens and those with disabilities.
In addition to donation of the cutaway-style bus, VVTA will provide driver training, parking facilities, routine vehicle maintenance and assist in meeting federal reporting requirements. The collaborative effort is part of a federal grant process put forth by San Bernardino Associated Governments. Funding was awarded to VVCSC as a sub-recipient of VVTA, which is responsible for administering the grant.
“This is an excellent program whereby federal grant funds, a local nonprofit, and the regional public transit system all come together to provide seniors and those with disabilities who use wheelchairs more mobility options,” said Angela Valles, VVTA board chair.
As an established partner in the VVTA Travel Training Program, a program designed to teach disabled, elderly and low-income individuals to use fixed route public transit rather than paratransit service, the VVCSC New Freedom Program will extend beyond the conventional door-to-door service for its clients.
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"In addition to the driver, there will be a volunteer on board who will help them," said Dyesha Sanders, program manager for VVCSC, established in 1956 as the High Desert’s first nonprofit. "The volunteer will be there as a guide to comfort and provide assistance. We will take them to doctors, the heart institute in Hesperia, to do their banking, to get their prescriptions and to buy groceries. Some need help just doing that. We are there with them to help."
The donated vehicle features a lift that serves riders with mobility devices such as wheelchairs, scooters and walkers. The environmentally-friendly vehicle is powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), which is a substantially cleaner-burning fuel when compared to conventional gas or diesel power. The 2002 El Dorado Aerotech 220 bus recently reached the end of fleet service life with VVTA and was refurbished to serve the needs of VVCSC and its clients.
"Before this, we had a limited transportation service that was formed from our volunteers, using their own personal vehicles" said Sanders. "We were simply unable to transport passengers with wheelchairs or electric scooters, but now, we are able to."
Already received with enthusiasm by the community, the partnership with VVCSC will enhance a portion of VVTA's existing transportation service footprint, which includes the communities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Victorville as well as unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County, including Barstow, San Bernardino and Fontana.
"It's already growing, and we don't even have the program running yet," Sanders said. "Just with the idea out there and the plan in place, it's growing. We get someone new calling in every day to get into the program."
The VVCSC New Freedom Program begins service April 25.