By BECKY HARRIS
LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER
Three Conway agencies — Senior Citizens, Faulkner County Council on Developmental Disabiities (FCCDD) and the Boys and Girls Clubs — that once depended on the City of Conway and Faulkner County to support their transportation programs, have been looking for ways this week to replace that funding.
Citing increased demands on essential city services, such as fire, police and sanitation, and a decrease in revenues, the City of Conway did not include transportation services for FCCDD ($30,000), the Boys and Girls Clubs ($12,500) and the Senior Citizens Program ($45,000) in the city’s budget for 2011.
The city had provided funding for transportation programs for those agencies for several years after federal programs meeting those needs were discontinued.
Debra Robinson, executive director of the Faulkner County Senior Citizens Program was all smiles on Friday afternoon, saying that "In less than one week since information was released that the program was going to be forced to terminate its medical transportation service in Conway, $45,000 in donations poured into the Conway Center to keep the service running. This has been an extremely gratifying and heartwarming week for all of us."
The board of FCCDD met Friday to discuss belt-tightening efforts to enable the agency to continue to provide transportation services for adults with disabilities.
Rennia Johnston, executive director of FCCDD, said in 2010 the agency provided 6,700 passenger pickups, traveling more than 50,000 miles.
"We transport at least 10 clients a day, taking them to their jobs, to doctors’ appointments, pharmacies, grocery stores, to CARTI, to dialysis," Johnston said. "It’s an essential service for these clients who have no other way to get around."
She said the agency is very grateful for the support it has received in the past from the City of Conway and from Faulkner County, but the FCCDD board realizes these are difficult times.
"Our board decided that FCCDD will trim the budget, tighten our belts and work with our clients to limit the number of trips each week," Johnston said. "For instance, we take some clients grocery shopping every week. We’ll look at making those trips only once a month.
"We will vigorously pursue other funding and hope that things will be better in the future. In the meantime, we will continue to provide this critical service for these vulnerable people."
Members of the FCCDD board are Kathy Hall, president; Calvin Price, vice-president; Jackie Fliss, treasurer; Tom Erbach, Dean Newell, Roger Williams and Robert Wright, former FCCDD director and now executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Wright said the Boys and Girls Club board would be working "real hard to find the money to keep its vans running so we don’t leave out any kids who want to come to our clubs," he said.
He said the agency is facing an uphill battle, especially with the increase in fuel costs.
"We run four vans every day, stop at 12 elementary schools and pick up 190 kids to deliver them to our clubs," Wright said.
Grace United Methodist Church and the Bob Nabholz Unit in Downtown Conway have van service. The third unit is at Mayflower Elementary School, and those children do not need transportation, Wright said.
"We know it’s tough on the city right now, and we don’t blame them one bit. We appreciate all they’ve done for us in the past," Wright said. "But we have to make this up, and we will. This is so vital to our community and to the kids we serve. They need us."
(Becky Harris can be reached at 505-1234 or firstname.lastname@example.org)