Award-winning program striving to ensure long-term success

Smoky River Transportation received the 2024 Minister’s Award for Transportation Innovation at a ceremony late in March. Pictured are some of the SRT committee receiving their awards for the respective municipalities. Left-right are Smoky River Adult Learning Coordinator Leslie Carbone, Donnelly Councillor John Coy and Mayor Myrna Lanctot, Falher Mayor Donna Buchinski, Smoky River Family and Community Support Service’s Crystal Tremblay, Girouxville Councillor Danielle Laflamme, and M.D. of Smoky River Councillor Alain Blanchette.

Emily Plihal
Local Journalism
Initiative Reporter

On the heels of winning the 2024 Minister’s Award for Transportation Innovation, Smoky River Transportation is gearing up to ensure a long-term commitment to providing transportation to its residents.

Smoky River Transportation is a group effort between the five municipalities that comprise the Smoky River Region: Town of McLennan, Village of Donnelly, Town of Falher, Village of Girouxville, and the M.D. of Smoky River.

“It was crucial for the region to improve accessibility and transportation options for our residents,” says Donnelly Mayor Myrna Lanctot.

“The grant funding (received late last fall) enabled us to enhance our transportation program, providing services to those without vehicles or means of transportation. Prior to receiving the grant, many individuals were limited to accessing groceries only once a month through the transportation program,” she adds.

Lanctot says after receiving the grant, the program was able to increase the number of trips to twice per month. The expansion also increases access to healthcare services both within and outside of the region.

“The partnership between the regional municipalities creates a platform in which our ideas can be heard and implemented,” explains McLennan Mayor Jason Doris, who says the regional municipalities try to collaborate on a number of initiatives.

“The residents of McLennan can feel comfort in knowing that this program is available if needed,” he adds. “If a situation arises where transit is needed for an out-of-town appointment, they can arrange for a ride at a reasonable rate.”

The Alberta govern- ment contributed an initial $1.1 million investment late last fall in transportation options for seniors throughout the province, including in the M.D. of Smoky River. The purpose of the grant is to help provide better access for seniors to medical care, groceries and to help them connect with community and government services.

Smoky River Transportation was one of the lucky recipients, with the M.D. of Smoky River successful in its application, receiving $286,933. These funds helped FCSS facilitate the program and helped them hire a new transportation coordinator for the duration of the three-year program.

The three-year project will help FCSS and their partners (inclusive of all municipalities in the region) deliver innovative and accessible transportation to seniors and individuals with mobility issues in the community.

“The award presented to Smoky River Transportation signifies a commitment to improving the quality of life for our residents and showcases the dedication of elected officials to finding innovative solutions,” says Lanctot.

“This recognition not only celebrates our achievements but also demonstrates our proactive approach in addressing the needs of our community. By receiving this award, we are not only celebrating our successes but also reinforcing our mission to create a thriving environment where residents can live, work, and play with ease and convenience,” she adds.

Smoky River Transportation is inclusive of both a wheelchair-accessible bus and a van. The regional municipalities provide annual contributions that help to sustain the program.

In addition to providing transportation to medical and grocery opportunities, the program also organizes trips for residents to attend plays, concerts, and other entertainment both in and outside of the region.

“The program is managed by the FCSS (Family and Community Support Services) office,” says Lanctot.

“However, with the acquisition of the latest grant, the program now has a dedicated transportation coordinator. This shift has alleviated the pressure on the FCSS coordinator and allowed for a more focused approach to managing the transportation program.”

With the hiring of the new coordinator, the Smoky River Transportation committee is hoping to expand ridership, seek donations, and identify other funding sources. The region is hoping the program can become self-sustaining to ensure its longevity and continued service in the community.

“Moving forward, the group is committed to expanding and enhancing the transportation program to ensure its sustainability,” says Lanctot.

“By striving towards a self-sustaining model, the program aims to address challenges faced by residents and create a more supportive environment for individuals to thrive and remain in the Smoky River Region,” she adds.

If you would like more information about the program, please phone the Smoky River FCSS office in Falher at (780) 837-2220.

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