Celebrate Dial-a-Ride Anniversary with Community Foundation on September 9

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The St. John Dial-A-ride bus will soon be sporting a logo on the side which is to be unveiled at the 20th Anniversary celebrating Grandparent’s Day.

A 20th Anniversary Tea Party Celebration for St. John Dial-A-Ride Transportation and Supportive Services will take place on Grandparent’s Day, Sunday, September 9, from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at the St. Ursula’s Multipurpose Center in Cruz Bay.

The community is invited show appreciation for one of the community’s most valuable resources and to thank those who make services to this population possible.

Grandparent’s Day was instigated to encourage grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. President Jimmy Carter in 1978 proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. September was chosen for the holiday, to signify the “autumn years” of life.

Harry Daniel, Assistant Director of Veteran’s Affairs and St. John Community Foundation Board member, thanked United Way and Red Cross for instigating the Health Fair in Cruz Bay Park over 20 years ago that marked the beginning of St. John Dial-A-Ride.

“I remember being grateful for the services that were being offered to our residents as they were trying to recover from Hurricane Hugo,” said Daniel.  “VI Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities had come over for the Health Fair to let our elderly and disabled residents know Dial-A-Ride transportation services were available to them if they needed rides over in St. Thomas. The discussion turned to the need for the same services here on St. John.”

That year is when Reverend Worrell, who is the guest of honor for the September 9 event, stepped up and said the St. John Baptist Church would take the lead. With funding from United Way and advice from Virgin Islands Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, who operated Dial-A-Ride services in St. Thomas, the St. John program was soon underway.

The Baptist Church  ran the program as long as they could, but eventually needed help. They could not afford the insurance and maintenance of the vehicle, and the demand for service was becoming more than they could handle.

That’s when St. John Community Foundation stepped in to ensure continued services to the elderly and disabled residents on St. John, according to Reverend Worrell.

“St. John Community Foundation rescued the program from pending closure in 1992 and has been successfully providing transportation and supportive services for 20 years now, and that is something to celebrate,” said Oswin Sewer, another of the founding board members of the St. John Community Foundation.

Sewer remembers being part of the unanimous vote to bring the program under the umbrella of the St. John Community Foundation.
Alecia Wells, Senior Warden of St. Ursula’s Multi-Purpose Center, is proud to have a visionary like Rev. Kortright Worrell as a participant in their daily senior activities program.

“I remember the planning sessions at the Lumberyard, trying to see how we were going to get these services started,” said Wells. “Rev. Worrell, your baby has now graduated.”

St. John Dial-A-Ride provides an average of 250 rides per month. In addition to transportation for medical, work, educational, personal, civic, recreational and social trips, St. John Dial-A-Ride provides assistance and supportive services, such as shopping, medical appointment coordination, assistance with bill interpretation and payment, scheduling and referral services for local and visiting seniors, disabled veterans and disadvantaged individuals.

Dial-a-Ride also coordinates and executes intergenerational community service projects for the seniors, disabled and disadvantaged, and in the past year, also included efforts to bridge the huge gap in services to the homeless on St. John.

The Virgin Island’s Government provides critical funding from the Miscellaneous Budget which is distributed via the Department of Human Services.

Those funds were cut last year, but reinstated by an amendment when the program was going to have to cease vital services to the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged residents of St. John.

“The Senators heard our plea and acted swiftly,” said Rosie Koonce, who has used St. John-Dial-A-Ride to get out of her home for shopping and medical appointments for the past nine years.

“If it wasn’t for Dean, I’d be trapped at home since I don’t have family on island who can help me,” said Koonce.

Dean Thomas, St. John Dial-A-Ride driver for the past 10 years, took over the position from his uncle and his brother before that.

“I’ve grown up with most of our clients,” said Thomas. “They are more like friends and I am glad to be there for them.”

“Providing transportation services to our seniors through the Dial-A-Ride program is a top priority that must be funded despite tough financial times,” said Senator at Large Craig Barshinger. “St. John seniors use and appreciate the service, and they deserve it.”

“We continue to count on the support of United Way and the services of the American Red Cross to make sure our residents are taken care of in times of disaster, as well as on a daily basis,” said SJCF Director Celia Kalousek. “These two organizations have a long well respected history of dedicated service. Both United Way and The American Red Cross are charitable organizations, not governmental agencies.”

“They depend on volunteers and the generosity of community donors to perform their missions,” said Kalousek.

United Way’s roots go back to 1887, when a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants.

More than 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities. The St. Thomas/St. John United Way has supported the St. John Dial-A-Ride since its inception.

The American Red Cross received their first congressional charter in 1900 which set forth the purposes of the organization including giving relief and serving as a medium of communication between members of the American armed forces and their families, as well as, providing national and international disaster relief and mitigation.

Today, the supporters, volunteers and employees of the American Red Cross continue to fulfill their mission of preventing and alleviating human suffering in the face of emergencies using the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors. SJCF’s Director is a Red Cross governmental liaison for St. John.

SJCF has successfully been carrying out their mission to support programs that positively engage people, build resources and strengthen the St. John community since 1989.

“We continuously look for ways to fill service gaps and cultivate community assets including people, organizations, programs, and resources to effectively respond to changing needs of the community now and for future generations,” said Rob Crane SJCF Board President.

In addition to St. John Dial-A-Ride, other programs operating under the umbrella of the St. John Community Foundation include Using Sport for Social, St. John Film Society, St. John Recycling, JOY Volunteer Network, Friends Helping Friends Revolving Fund, The Gifft Hill Community Garden Park, as well as other collaborative community projects and events.

Find out how to support the St. John Community Foundation’s efforts by visiting the website www.sjcf.org, email allawe@sjcf.org, or call The Marketplace office at 693-9410.