By Pam Ferla.
Capturing the warm-hearted spirit of Tairua are the volunteers involved with Tairua Care and Friendship Club (TFC) and the community transport it offers. With the extra challenge of recent road damages and closures, residents with medical appointments are very grateful for this service, which covers the area of Tairua, Pauanui and Hikuai.
Tairua resident, Marnie Goodman, has been Community Van Coordinator for the last seven years, helping with bookings and driver enquiries.
She says TFC has a policy of ensuring clients travel in comfort and are safe and secure. “That’s why we use two vehicles – an 11-seater Ford Transit with a wheelchair hoist, plus a Mazda CX9 for the trip to Hamilton.”
“Our executive pulls together to chase funds from many charities, such as Tairua Troubadours and Lotto. Without these great contributors we would struggle to keep operating. Our day-to-day running costs are mainly covered by Waikato Health Board and National Transport Assistance.”
Currently there are 14 volunteer drivers, some of them involved since 1996, when the service began. Their commitment is evident in the fact that the service has run non-stop every weekday since it started, including Christmas time, if needed. Drivers work on a six-week roster.
Marnie says there is also a dedicated driver bringing clients out of Pauanui to the highway, thus easing the drive time to Hamilton and Thames, especially with the current long detours.
She points out that Pauanui and Tairua combined are said to have the oldest population in New Zealand.
As well as the essential transport service, Tairua Care and Friendship Club offers community lunches on Tuesdays at Tairua Community Hall. Door to door transport is available to those unable to drive to the hall and three drivers are allocated for the lunch run.
“We are always in need of keen new volunteers prepared to handle eight-to-ten-hour days. They require a class 1 licence plus police clearance (organised by TCF) as well as a cheery smile and pleasant attitude, which are much appreciated by their passengers.”
Full training is given, and a buddy system ensures drivers are confident in their approach. Shirts and lanyards are issued to drivers, so they are easily identifiable. While on the road, drivers have hand-free option if required, as well as GPS maps.
Jean Myles has been a regular travelling on the van to Waikato Hospital and she says the drivers are so pleasant. “I’ve been backwards and forwards on the van since December and I think it’s a wonderful service. And Marnie does a good job too.”
Marnie believes the club has a buoyant future, in spite of the ever changing weather and economic challenges for the executive. “Their positive attitude and community support will see the club continue to serve our community, meeting the area’s health and welfare needs, so we do not feel cut off from the rest of the world.” For bookings or driver enquiries, contact Marnie, 0211375688.
Caption: Tairua Care and Friendship Club (TFC) driver.