The little buses that help

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

Genesis Healthcare has developed a reputation for going the extra mile for their patients through the years, and now those miles are free; a partnership between PDRTA and Genesis allows qualifying patients’ free bus rides for medical appointments at their Darlington and Olanta offices.

“Having the PDRTA has really helped a lot of our patients who have transportation problems, said Dr. Alex Cohen, physician in Darlington. “We have several patients that depend on this bus to get them their doctor’s appointments.”

Genesis has begun a partnership with Pee Dee Regional Transportation to provide free rides to medical appointments for all qualified patients – both for Pee Dee Health Care in Darlington, and the Olanta Family Care.

The PDRTA commuter bus bringing patients to their medical appointments at Genesis Healthcare’s Pee Dee Healthcare in Darlington.  Photo by Jana E. Pye

The PDRTA commuter bus bringing patients to their medical appointments at Genesis Healthcare’s Pee Dee Healthcare in Darlington.
Photo by Jana E. Pye

Cohen said it has made a tremendous impact on the health of his patients.

“Many of our patients are on fixed incomes, and this allows them to get to their appointments at no fee,” said Cohen. “This has greatly decreased missed appointments, and allows us to treat them regularly.”

“I don’t have family here,” said Jane Blackwell. “I really depend on the bus; if it weren’t for that, I have to walk everywhere.”

Blackwell just completed treatments for cancer, and although she has built up to walking 5-6 miles a day for her health, during her treatments the bus was “a blessing” to her. “The drivers are great, they keep us well taken care of. And if I’m not sure where to go, they help me get on the right route” Mrs. Blackwell lives on Springfield Circle, and only has a short walk for a bus stop. White lady, in pink:

“I use the bus for anything that is important to me, like grocery shopping, and going to the doctor,” said Belinda Odom. “But, presently I am using it to go to work. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have this bus. My car is currently broken down and this helps so much.” White, wearing blue: Belilnda Odom:
Robert Washington agrees. “ I use the bus to get to the doctor.” Said Washington. “I really need the bus, I’m so glad it’s here.” Cap with sunglasses on top:
Although the bus route to the doctor’s office is good, many of the riders use it other times during the week for a variety of reasons, and appreciate the low fee versus a cab fare.

“I use the bus for the doctors,” said Helen James. “And for going up town for the bank, so I don’t have transportation but this.” Helen James, Yellow shirt:
“It is a pleasure to have individuals here in the city that have concern for people that don’t have transportation,” said Lula Brown. “I am 70 years old and have been using the bus to get to the doctor, for grocery shopping, and I just recently went beck to Adult Ed. It has been wonderful to not have to worry about a ride.”

The only thing she would change, would be more days of service. “I have had to use a cab on a Saturday,” said Brown. “I didn’t want to but I had no choice. It’s just too expensive- I get the senior citizen fares, which are $4 or $5, but the bus fare is much cheaper. I’d love to see it running on Saturdays.” Lula Brown, patterned dress.

Marilyn Matthews, who works at for Darlington County School District Adult Education, has seen positive changes in enrollment since the PDRTA began working with the office to assist with transportation for adults seeing their G.E.D.

“I notice since the bus ha been coming to bring our students in, attendance is up,” said Matthews, who works at Adult Education. “I hope they keep it for the students, because many – if not most of them – really need it. And it helps for them to come in to get their education, so they can be eligible for better jobs.” Burgandy sweater.

A creative blend of the DART commuter bus and the Council on Aging bus has allowed one resident of Darlington who is blind attend her doctor appointments and attend the day program for the elderly.

“My sister, Linda Holmes, is blind,” said Delores Richardson. “She goes to the senior citizens place on Pearl Street each day. When she has a doctor’s appointment, the DART bus picks her up, and I meet her here. On the days she goes to the doctor, I promise them I’ll meet her here, it works out great. It’s the only way she could get to the doctor, since she lives out on Lide Springs Road and the DART bus doesn’t go that far.”

“I have been using the bus for 10 years,” Richardson continues. “This is my doctor, too. I can come here and get our prescriptions here, too.” And motions to her bags of medicine, picked up at the pharmacy that is adjacent to the physicians offices. (Grey white and black jacket)

The DART bus driver, Roosevelt Graham, is a native from Darlington. After he pulled up at the office, he helped riders descend the steps of the bus, taking down walkers and placing them in front of the steps, and providing support for riders as they descended the bus steps to enter the building for their medical appointments.

“I was born and raised here in Darlington,” said Graham. “I feel great working here. That’s why I took this route on. I’ve been working for them about 10 years. When they started this DART route five years ago, I put in for it because I know a lot of folks around here. I know the area, and I am enjoying it.”

Roosevelt said that from his experience, he has a lot of good riders.

“They treat me nice, and I try to treat them nice. The company is doing a great job as far as I can see. We keep improving it each year.”

One of the last folks to descend the bus was Ruby May McFarland. “I use the bus just to go to the doctor,” said McFarland. “But, if I wanted to go shopping, he’d carry me there,” looking at Graham. “He is a good bus driver. I wouldn’t take nothing for him.”

Red Sweater: Ruby May McFarland

If you are curious about the bus, join the “Commuter Bus Ride Along” day on Thursday, April 9. The bus will leave the Bi-Lo in Darlington at 6:55 a.m. The trip will be free for round-trip riders, and will travel to Florence Darlington Technical College, a transfer point for the Florence #2 bus. It will then follow the same route to return to Bi-Lo in Darlington at 8 a.m.

The Ride-Along opportunity is in observance for Stand Up 4 Transportation Day. For more information, contact Don Strickland at 843-665-2227, ext. 136. Sponsored by PDRTA and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina and Darlington County chapters.

Author: Duane Childers

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