Gas prices affect GB ride program

WFRV News:  Click HERE to see video of story. Story Created: Mar 1, 2011 at 9:08 PM CST

http://www.wfrv.com/v/?i=117211693

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — Gas prices are taking a toll on local businesses and non-profits, reporter Heather Sawaski investigates how a local Red Cross program is coping with the rising costs.

More than 5 years after heart surgery, 80-year-old Dorothy Hovde is taking advantage of the Red Cross Transportation Program to get to to her exercise class at St. Mary’s Hospital.

“It’s convenient for me, I don’t drive and my children and grandchildren that do drive are at work at this time of the day,” Hovde said.

For $2 a trip, the elderly and people with disabilities in the Green Bay area can get rides to and from medical appointments and work, but the climbing gas prices are proving to be more than just a bump in the road.

“Typically we spend about $8,000 a month on gasoline, so we’ve seen a 25 percent increase, we’re now in the $10,000 range,” said Steve Maricque, Red Cross Executive Director, Lakeland Chapter.

The program is funded by state grants and local donors, and gives rides to more than 5,500 people a month. Rising costs have already forced the Red Cross to put a similar program in Door County on hold. There have also been staffing and scheduling cuts to save money.

“We’re able to, so far, manage with the increase in gas prices,” said Maricque. “But if they continue to rise, we’d have to look at other measures in terms of what we would need to do.”

The organization is looking into increasing fares as a last resort, because most of the riders are on fixed incomes, but doesn’t want to leave people like Dorothy Hovde stranded.

The last time the Red Cross had to raise prices was five years ago. Prices went up 50 cents.

Heather Sawaski reports.

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