Neighbourhood Link driver Alem Abebe helps Rena into the “Neighbourhood Link limo” at the Adult Day Program. Rena is one of hundreds of seniors who take advantage of the organization’s ride service in the East End.
PHOTO: Jon Muldoon
Neighbourhood Link, which has served the East End’s seniors, job seekers, newcomers and more for four decades, is looking to the community for help.
One of the many services offered by the agency is low-cost rides for seniors who need wheels to get to medical appointments, physiotherapy clinics, home from minor surgeries or even just to get some necessary shopping done. The van in need of replacement has nearly 200,000 km on the odometer. The service offered 13,770 affordable trips to 525 seniors last year, racking up more than 49,000 km in the process.
Alem Abebe, who has driven the “Neighbourhood Link limo” for about four years, said the service provided by the agency goes beyond what some other ride services offer. For example, he said he will wait if a client is not finished a doctor’s appointment at the scheduled time. He will also make short stops on the way home from appointments if clients need to run quick errands.
“We go the extra mile sometimes to help people,” he said, adding that other ride services are often not allowed to offer that flexibility.
Sometimes that extra mile is literal, as the service does take clients out of Neighbourhood Link’s East End catchment area, when they have appointments at locations like Toronto Western Hospital or Scarborough General Hospital. They also try to coordinate service with other organizations when possible, sharing rides with clients of Toronto Ride or Harmony Hall.
Another positive aspect of Abebe’s regular appearance to drive seniors around is the relationship he develops with many clients.
“They trust me,” he said. “We have one client who has dementia, and every time he skips out they call me, because he recognizes me.”
Rena is a senior who loves everything pink and lives in Jean Dudley House, a Neighbourhood Link building on Stephenson Avenue. She also gets rides three times a week to the Adult Day Program at Main Street and Kingston Road, a service she’s grateful for – especially Abebe.
“He’s a good driver,” she said.
There are plans for the service to expand to include weekends and later hours on weekdays, though before that can happen, the agency needs a more reliable vehicle. To help Neighbourhood Link purchase a new van, click here.
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