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More seniors catch a ride with local taxi service

Volunteers honored for driving service

Jan. 21, 2009

When Muskego senior citizens call “taxi,” a team of nine drivers stands ready to pick them up in the Muskego Senior Taxi service’s Buick LeSabre.

Last week, the drivers had their turn in the limelight as they were honored for their volunteer service at an appreciation dinner at ProHealth Care Regency.

Dan Henry, volunteer coordinator for the taxi service, said the dinner was a chance to say thank you and “please don’t quit” to the drivers.

“Drivers are difficult to find,” Henry said. “It is purely selfless.”

The taxi service, first licensed a year ago in January, provided its first ride in April. Henry said it has gone from providing 17 rides that first month to a high of 218 in December.

Drivers enjoy volunteerism

He was hoping for 250 rides this January.

Driver Michael Gorski ranks second in seniority, right behind Jean Marenda, the former city clerk.

Gorski said he was not sure he wanted to be a taxi driver when his friend Jim Nichols, a taxi service board member, started badgering him to drive as plans were being made for the service.

“He pestered me for a year and a half,” Gorski said. “Then the softer side of me came out.”

Gorski agreed to drive one day a week. Now he is sorry he made Nichols work so hard.

“You meet a lot of interesting people,” he said. “I’m getting old, too. Somewhere down the road I’ll need the service myself.”

Gorski retired from his job as a tool room machinist at Allen Bradley in September 2007.

“I drove 22 miles to work every day,” he said. “I enjoy the driving.”

A Vernon resident, he said he is getting to know the lay of the land in Muskego and is getting used to the city’s south-west grid system of addresses.

He is even putting in some extra time driving when needed.

“It is something I recommend people consider,” he said of becoming a volunteer driver.

Dan Kinnick is a relative newcomer to the nine-month-old taxi service, having started in late November. But he is no rookie to community service. A former Muskego-Norway School Board member for 13 years, Kinnick also volunteers twice a month at the Ronald McDonald House.

“I’ve always said I’d like to do volunteer work,” he said.

A retired civil engineer for the city of Greenfield, Kinnick became a flight attendant for Midwest Airlines. But he was recently laid off and has more time for volunteering.

He describes himself as semi-retired.

“I signed up to do a half day a week,” he said. “But I usually fill in and pretty regularly I’ll do a whole day a week.”

He said his experience with the taxi service has been good.

“The people are very nice,” he said.

Henry said drivers are typically younger retirees.

“They are the kind of people who want to give something back,” he said. “They value the senior citizens. They are all charming and like helping people.”

Henry not only does the dispatching for the taxi service, but also often takes a turn at the wheel.

Funding dips in 2009

Henry said if ridership consistently runs higher than 250 rides per month, the service might consider getting a second taxi. Of course, that will cost more money.

The service received a $19,000 grant from the state and $10,000 from the city for start-up in 2008. ProHealth Care, which provides office space and parking for the taxi, has run two fundraisers for the service. The Muskego Woman’s Club donated $3,000.

For 2009, Henry said the service applied for a $16,000 grant, but will only receive about $8,000.

Rides are $9 each way, or $3.50 for those with a Waukesha County subsidy card. Henry said nearly all the rides are subsidized.

John Schultz can be reached at (262) 446-6611.

At a glance

WHAT: The Muskego Senior Taxi program provides rides for residents 65 or older and younger people who are eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

WHERE: Service is based at Pro Health Care Regency, Racine Avenue at Woods Road

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday

WHO: To arrange for a ride, call the taxi service at (262) 679-4754.

fyi

Muskego Senior Taxi drivers

•Daniel Barry

•James Depies

•Michael Gorski

•Daniel Henry (volunteer coordinator)

•Robert Heidger

•Diane Johnson

•Daniel Kinnick

•Jean Marenda

•Carol Stillwell

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