Posted 9/27/16 (Tue)
By Cecile Wehrman
People in need of rides in towns from Tioga to Grenora should be glad Candy and Don Hartman moved to Wildrose seven years ago.
Without them and several other drivers, people needing a ride to Williston, Minot or even Plentywood might be left thumbing it, no matter their age.
Now, Wildrose Public Transport is expanding to serve Crosby, as well. They were recently okayed for providing VA trips, also.
It took a hometown girl willing to move back and a husband who drove semi for 20 years to turn what used to be a senior bus for Wildrose patrons only into one that also began serving Tioga a couple of years ago.
Recently, runs out of Grenora were added, and starting next week, there will be a pickup in Crosby every Tuesday.
“What we’re shooting for is two Tuesdays a month, going to Williston and two Tuesdays a month, to Minot,” said Candy.
The Williston runs will depart on Oct. 4 and 18; the Minot runs will depart on Oct. 11 and 25.
“We go door-to-door,” said Candy, picking up riders -- 24 hour notice is requested -- by calling 539-2364. The cost is $15 for a Williston run and $20 for a ride to Minot.
Thanks to the availability of several regular drivers -- Don being one of them, “we’ve been able to expand and we’ve really had good support,” she said.
“It really exploded into going into the grants,” said Don, with federal funding funneling through the state, to local services.
Private support has been substantial, too, however, in the form of donations from local businesses and riders.
That support recently helped the service obtain a second vehicle -- a 14-passenger bus that is handicap accessible.
Most times, said Candy, the Crosby bus will depart at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., depending on the appointment times of those using the service.
“We drop them off where they need to go and when everyone’s done, we head home,” she said. “We try to be out of town by mid-afternoon.”
The service is for the use of all ages and riders may travel for any purpose, not just doctor’s visits.
That said, the motivation for becoming involved in providing public transportation in a sparsely populated and geographically large region has a lot to do with helping elderly people stay in their home communities.
“It’s so vital for some people. It’s the only way they can stay in their homes because they can’t get to their appointments,” said Candy, if they are unable to drive to those services.
Don said one of his riders, age 94, is a perfect example of this. The service allows her to continue to live in her home community, but the relationships that develop out of that service are a bonus for client and driver alike.
“When I take her to Minot, I’m kind of like her son,” said Don, taking the woman to her doctor visits and accompanying her on other errands.
“We enjoy it. I think myself and all the drivers, I just think it’s just that we can help people get where they need to be,” said Candy.
She figures it’s the least society can do.
“They’re ones we knew growing up, so in a way, it’s a little like family you are taking care of,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s any of us doing it for the money,” she laughs.
This week, the bus is taking a group to attend Hostfest and Candy said they have taken people to everything from Christmas concerts to lutefisk feeds in the past.
“We’re open to other suggestions of what people want or what they need,” she said.
Though it may usually be the route that a public service develops in a larger town before expanding to serve smaller towns, in this case, said Candy, it just took someone able and willing to do the paperwork.
“It doesn’t matter whether we have one vehicle or 50 vehicles it’s the same amount of work,” she said.
Candy manages to do that paperwork on behalf of the non-profit corporation’s board while also working in her brother’s insurance agency. Don describes himself as “semi retired” to make himself available to do some of the driving.
When Don met Candy 20 years ago, he said, “She swore she’d never move back to Wildrose,” but now there are a host of people benefitting from the fact Candy’s oath was in vain.