Last week I had the pleasure of celebrating with Ryedale Community Transport as they marked 30 years of operating a community car scheme.
I was picked up from the train station by Julie, one of Ryedale Community Transport’s regular volunteer drivers and we got chatting about how Julie came to volunteer. Her’s was a familiar story of wanting to give back to the community she’d lived in her whole life. Very quickly, Julie was telling me about how much she loves volunteering and how the scheme is as important to her as it is to those who use it.
RCT’s community car scheme was founded in 1989 which, for me, is pretty much a life time ago! In the days leading up to the celebration I found myself imaging what the car scheme would have looked like 30 years ago. One big difference would have been the cars used by volunteers – there certainly wouldn’t have been any hybrid or electric vehicles and passengers would have found themselves taking trips in a Ford Orion or, if they were really lucky, an Audi Quattro! Kylie and Jason Donovan would have been playing on the radio, the shoulder pads on the jackets of drivers would have been so big they would have struggled to get in and out of the vehicles, and Margaret Thatcher would have been prime minister.
It’s safe to say a lot has changed in the 30 years since the scheme started but one thing I know remains the same is the value it brings to the community and the passengers who use it. In it’s 30 years of operation, it’s provided an amazing 150,000 passenger trips and a staggering 600,000 volunteer hours. John, a volunteer with RCT, spoke about the 2,630 trips he’s provided since he started volunteering in 1997. Each one of those trips would have provided independence, interaction and the opportunity to access services and activities which otherwise might have been impossible. John is keen to reach 3,000 trips before he hangs up his volunteer driver hat as, like Julie, he really enjoys volunteering and helping those who need it most in his local area.
The celebration was full of funny, heartwarming and often sentimental stories from drivers who had gone the extra mile for their passengers. It was clear that being a volunteer driver for RCT was so much more than just driving duties; it also included being a confidant, a shoulder to cry on, a carrier of shopping, a mediator and a friend.
So what do the next 30 years look like for RCT? Whilst I don’t know what sort of cars we’ll be driving or the music we’ll be listening to, one thing i’m certain of is that the need for volunteers who dedicate their time to ensuring people feel part of their community will still be as important as they are now. A huge congratulations to all at RCT on the amazing achievement!
Community Transport Association UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in Cardiff no. 1985361 Registered office: 12 Hilton Street M1 1JF. Registered as a charity in England and Wales no. 1002222. Charity Registered in Scotland No. SC038518.