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New bus coming, but Finnish Resthome may have to wait to use it

Residents managed to raise the $150,000 needed for the new wheels
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Krystal Sonoc, Ontario Finnish Resthome Association (OFRA) activities aide, with the functional but old ramp on OFRA’s resident bus in this August, 2019 file photo. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Residents of the Finnish Resthome won’t be waiting much longer for their new bus, but getting on board and using the vehicle depends on the COVID-19 situation.

“We were able to raise enough money for the bus to come in September,” said Margaret Gardner, fund development co-ordinator at the resthome.

The much-anticipated arrival of a new wheel-chair accessible vehicle was set for July, but delays brought about by the pandemic set back those plans.

Exactly when it can be put to use, shuttling residents around the area, depends on what health officials decide is safe.

When that day finally arrives, it promises to be a big step up from the 10-year-old bus that is currently used.

The new custom-made bus required the home’s supporters to raise approximately $150,000.

The last Annual Harvest Fest Draw helped push fundraising over the top. That came just in time because Harvest Fest had to be cancelled this year.

Heidi Slotegraaf, manager of program and support services, said the new bus will seat 16 residents, including five wheelchairs. It has a ramp leading to the interior, which is much more dignified than stairs. The seats will be more comfortable.

Slotegraaf said the bus usually operates about three times a week. The day trips — depending on whether the residents are in longterm or assisted living — can include visits to the mall, Bellevue Park, the boardwalk, fall colour tours and groceries.

Of course, getting out on such excursions is not really an option these days.

It’s been a challenging time for anyone managing activities at a resthome. The biggest job is scheduling visits under the strict COVID guidelines.

Fundraising is also a challenge for a wide variety of charities and the resthome’s needs continue past raising money for the bus.

Gardner said a constant influx of money needs to be raised.

With this in mind, the annual 50/50 draw is expanding this year to 20 draws from 15. Tickets for the bi-weekly draw are $5 or $100 for all 20 draws. It starts Wednesday.

“There’s been absolutely amazing support,” said Gardner.

The 50/50 draw and other fundraising initiatives are rolling along through the pandemic with some modifications.

Residents of the resthome anxiously await the arrival of their new wheels and hope they too can get rolling around town soon.