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Elderberry Express is a unique Pittsford Enterprise

March 2007

Pittsford has many fine attributes - its history, its architecture, its traditions and it has one more thing that is uniquely Pittsford. It is the enviable service to seniors called the Elderberry Express. Surrounding communities had tried to emulate it, but it has not been copied as yet.

The service was born 20 years ago out of a task force on Aging. Seven Pittsford churches as well as businesses discussed the greatest need residents over 55 were facing. Transportation ranked as number one. Many of those people lived alone and had given up their automobiles, either because they were too expensive or because the individual just didn't feel competent to handle the 2000 lb. machine.

Monthly meetings were held over the winter to determine policies, solicit funds, and recruit members who were willing to give of their time and money to drive or answer the telephone requests. A 12-passenger van was made available through the generosity of R.J. Russell Associates who paid for the leasing of the vehicle for two years.

On August 4, 1987, the van was christened Elderberry Express, a catchy name that did not demean the riders by calling it something like the "Old Folks Wagon", or the "Golden Oldie Coach". At first the service was slow, but when transportation to the Pittsford Seniors Meetings on Tuesdays was offered as well as shopping trips to Wegmans on Wednesdays, ridership increased dramatically.

Even though donations from the community, the clients, and the churches were substantial, they were not enough to sustain the growing costs of insurance, gasoline, & maintenance of the vehicle. So after becoming incorporated as a Not For Profit organization in 1990, the Town of Pittsford gave the Elderberry its first grant. It still depends on donations from friends, riders, families and friends to support the two vehicles that now are the "fleet" to transport seniors to their appointments.

I recently assisted a driver with the shopping expedition to Pittsford Wegmans on a Wednesday. There were six ladies who took advantage of the service that day. Each one was so appreciative of the opportunity and mentioned it numerous times and suggested that an article be written telling of the wonderful service. One regular client explained it to me this way. She lives at 81 Linden Knolls and even though she likes the Rochester area, she says the transportation here is lacking. There are not buses that run in the areas she needs, and taxicabs are too expensive and unreliable. She says Elderberry Express is just the ticket for her and she does not feel so isolated.

There is one paid part-time executive director who takes the phone calls, finds drivers, and sets appointments. The volunteer Board of Directors is comprised of members from the community, the churches and other interested volunteers. A total of 65 volunteers support the organization and there is always the need for more.

Congratulations to a wonderful service and Happy 20th Birthday Elderberry!!