About a month ago, we told you South Central Cancer Resource (SCCR) was in dire need of volunteer drivers for its free transportation program.
That need expanded shortly after with the sudden death of one volunteer in the Altona-area, and a new cancer patient requiring rides to radiation appointments.
The tide quickly turned after the story hit PembinaValleyOnline, said Leora Hamm, Administrative Resource Coordinator for SCCR.

"We didn't know where these drivers were going to come from to fill that gap. With the article that you did with our program and with us, we had six new volunteer drivers come up and register with our program, and a couple of them were from Altona. That was huge because we could fill in the gap, and this patient was able to go for his treatments. It's just a credit to what our community can do when they hear the call, and they heed the call. That was just a huge testimony to our community."

Hamm couldn't believe the response. 

"I couldn't believe how people just stepped up and said, 'You know what, you need drivers. I can drive. I have a vehicle. Sign me up'." 

She said filling the need of local cancer patients, not just with the transportation program but with all of SCCR's programs, is so very rewarding. "It just fuels the soul."

"Before I worked here, I didn't understand that technical piece of cancer. I understood so much of the emotional part, and maybe the physical part a little bit, but I had no idea what it takes to coordinate a cancer patient's journey," added Hamm. "Just the rides needed to Winnipeg and back, for some, it's insurmountable. Maybe they have no family. Maybe they have no support system. They may be immigrants; they may be an older couple who have no family in this area, and they don't drive in Winnipeg. It may be somebody that doesn't have a reliable vehicle. We've heard so many stories of people that just lose sleep at night because they don't know how they're going to get their loved one in for their treatment. That's where we, that's where we help and it's so important."

SCCR covers a large area of Manitoba from Carwright, Pilot Mound and Manitou to Morris, Emerson and Altona over to Carman and South to the U.S border. While the organization is now sitting good with volunteer drivers in the Altona and Winkler area, Hamm says they could use more throughout the rest of the service area. 

"Sometimes it's a matter of you think you have enough in an area, and then you have two or three cancer patients that call and say, 'I've got radiation coming up', and then suddenly where we had no rides, now we need 50 rides filled. So, it's a little bit hit and miss in terms of how busy you are as a driver and its seasons, but we need those people to sign up so we know when the need arises, we have people we can rely on."

Meantime, Hamm gave a shout out to SCCR'S handful of volunteer driver coordinators, the people working behind the scenes to keep the wheels of the transportation program running. 

"They are on call 24/7, who get a call from a patient and say, 'OK, I'll find you a ride' and they don't get paid for their job. Words are, you know, I just want them to know we so appreciate what they do, because a lot of them are so busy, especially in the Winkler, Morden, Altona area, where they're filling rides daily, and we're just very grateful for the role that they play. "

Meantime, the SCCR received a $6,150 grant from United Way Pembina Valley's 2023/24 granting program. The funds are dedicated to the transportation program. 

"We are just so thrilled," said Hamm. "They are just going to make a huge difference in the lives of our local cancer patients and their families."

With files from Robyn Wiebe.