It’s a chilly Thursday morning in the Wairarapa and Red Cross Community Transport driver Richard Whitney is preparing for his weekly round trip from Masterton to Featherston. He’s collecting members of a Parkinson’s support group for an exercise class.

Not that you’d know it from talking to Richard. The 160km he drives in a day doesn’t faze him because he loves driving and the social aspect, and as he collects his clients the bond he has with the people he picks up is clearly very strong.

“Without Richard we wouldn’t be able to get to Masterton,” says Harry – a group member. “Look at Ken, Richard goes into the house and helps him into the van. Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to go.”

Richard’s proud of his role with Red Cross, during his working life he rarely had the time to volunteer, and he sees the Community Transport service as the ideal way to give back the community he loves.

The feeling is obviously mutual. As we return to Masterton, Richard’s passengers are full of praise for him and the Red Cross Community Transport service.

Jane Flowerday, who organises the group, says its “absolutely imperative” the Community Transport service is maintained as over half of her clients need supported transport.

Leah, a member of the group, believes the exercise class helps in managing her condition and coping with everyday life.

“Because of our health issues, it wouldn’t be possible to join the class if we didn’t have help of the Community Transport service,” she says.

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