Service needed
Centre appeals for funds to help keep van on the road

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Feb 02/00) - The road to providing a courtesy service for Rankin Inlet's elders and physically- challenged is proving to be bumpy for the Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre.

After fighting a long, up-hill battle to get a van to help transport people with disabilities, the centre is now appealing for funding to keep the vehicle in service.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. listened to the pleas of Rankin's Mary Sigurdson and donated the van back in January 1998.

After exhausting her own financial means to provide free transportation for hamlet elders, Sigurdson donated the van to the Friendship Centre seven months later.

The van sat idle for more than a year until the Keewatin Regional Health Board and Social Services stepped up and furnished the money to get the vehicle insured and road worthy.

Another donation by an Ontario group called Friends of Nunavut helped with the hiring of a driver and the van was back on the road in November 1999.

After three short months, however, Friendship Centre executive director Myrna Michon says the hamlet is in danger of losing the service again.

"We're very disappointed about this because there's been a definite need shown by our elders and handicapped citizens for this service," says Michon.

"Our initial funding is used up and we have to be able to pay our driver, Tim Akerolik."

Akerolik keeps an active log of his trips and has been answering calls from 8 a.m. until about 10 p.m. since becoming the van's driver.

The log shows an average of about 30 trips a day and, since the cold weather set in, Michon says they've had trouble meeting the demand.

"We take seniors or handicapped people to the health centre, Public Health, Social Services, the drug store, things of that nature.

"We even take some physically-challenged people back and forth to work.

"We help people get to the bank, post office, grocery store, church and social functions."

The service does not transport family members. It is used strictly for elders and the physically-challenged unless they need a qualified escort.

Michon says the centre would hate to lose the van, but it doesn't have the funding to run the service on its own.

"We're appealing to any organization or citizen who may be able to help.

"We need this service in a community as large as Rankin. It's a great help to many people who really appreciate its availability."