More funding will help the Volunteer Cancer Drivers keep up their service, as their biggest expense, the cost of gas, climbs. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Gas price hikes another obstacle for Lower Mainland’s Volunteer Cancer Drivers

The non-profit group is hoping to find new donors through a fundraising campaign

The cost of gas is hammering a Lower Mainland charity that helps people get to their cancer treatments and doctor appointments.

“We’re running more or less hand to mouth,” said George Garrett, one of the founders of the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society, a non-profit that organizes almost 200 volunteer drivers along with a crew of 13 volunteer dispatchers.

They will pick up patients at their door, and drive them to hospitals and cancer centres around the Lower Mainland. That can mean short trips, or long hauls from Abbotsford to Vancouver, sometimes on a weekly or even daily basis. Their clients are often elderly, or too sick from their cancer or the treatment for it to drive themselves.

Public transit isn’t a viable option for many, who may have to make lengthy trips that would take hours each way by bus or SkyTrain.

In the absence of steady government funding, Volunteer Cancer Drivers funds itself from a variety of donations and fundraisers.

This year’s budget expenses are forecast to be just over $300,000, with 94 per cent of that going to the drivers themselves to cover the costs of their fuel. Administration and the single, part-time employee is just six per cent of costs.

Due to the increasing cost of gas, the Volunteer Cancer Drivers are increasing their per-kilometre rate from 44 to 48 cents for the volunteers, Garrett said.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it can add up given some of the long-distance trips the patients need to make.

One trip an Abbotsford driver has been making recently adds up to 164 km per round trip, or $78.72 per trip, Garrett said.

Garrett has been working to put the society on a sound financial footing.

“I’m 84 right now, and by the time I’m 90, I’d like to see this self-sufficient,” he said.

On Monday, he was making the rounds in Langley, speaking to Township Mayor Jack Froese, City Mayor Val van den Broek, and Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce executive director Colleen Clark.

He’s hoping to ask local government and corporate sponsors to step up and commit to funding $5,000 to $10,000 a year over a five-year period.

Dubbed the Take Five initiative, it should keep the society running, if enough sponsors can sign up.

One of the biggest opportunities to help fund the society came up recently as Garrett, a retired journalist, was selling copies of his book, Intrepid Reporter.

After lunch with a buyer of the book, Garrett was offered $50,000 a year for five years for the Volunteer Cancer Drivers.

The only catch is they need some matching funding.

That’s one of the main reasons for Garrett returning to Langley, where he’s had some success in the past, getting support from local councils as well as businesses such as the Langley Chrysler dealership, which hosted last year’s car was fundraiser.

The biggest single donor for the society, however, is likely to remain the drivers themselves.

They return 20 to 25 per cent of the mileage reimbursments they’re given, donating it right back to the society, adding up to about $60,000 this year, Garrett said.

For more about the society, including opportunities to volunteer and donate, visit www.volunteercancerdrivers.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley heart surgery patient rarely leaves home

James Jepson is especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus

Thunderbird Show Park cancels Canadian Premier and Odlum Brown BC Open

First cancellation in 47-year history of Langley facility

Langley Township businesses will ‘get hit hard’ by break-ins during COVID-19 closures

Store owners are being warned to leave their valuables out of sight from thieves

VIDEO: Feeding front-line medical responders at Langley Memorial Hospital

When a volleyball championship was cancelled, the teams decided to repurpose the registration fees

Smiling 98-year-old inspires new ways to connect at Langley hospital

Foundation staff liaise between patients and loved-ones who can’t visit due to restrictions

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Blue ribbons popping up along streets in Abbotsford in praise of B.C. healthcare workers

Healthcare worker’s family starts local trend of morale support

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

Most Read