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Elmbrook Senior Taxi facing funding shortfall

Car service marks its 20th year in operation

Ann Regar, a long-time client of the Elmbrook Senior Taxi, is picked up from her home for an appointment on Nov. 2.

Ann Regar, a long-time client of the Elmbrook Senior Taxi, is picked up from her home for an appointment on Nov. 2. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Nov. 6, 2012

A decrease in federal grants has the Elmbrook Senior Taxi struggling to stay on the road.

The non-profit service, celebrating its 20th year this month, provides more than 5,000 one-way rides a year to seniors in the city and town of Brookfield, Elm Grove and Butler.

Frequent destinations include the grocery store, beauty salons, shopping and doctor's offices.

Sandy Wolff, co-founder of the program, says Elmbrook Senior Taxi is vital to seniors who have no other means of transportation.

"It's a better alternative to constantly asking their neighbors or relatives for rides all the time; they feel it's an imposition," Wolff said. "This service enhances their quality of life."

Operating from the Willow Brook Senior Housing Center in Brookfield, Elmbrook Senior Taxi has two cars, seven drivers and eight schedulers. Florence Monday, 90, has worked as a scheduler for 15 years.

"This program gives the seniors a chance to get out," Monday said. "They enjoy the convenience of the program."

Funding for the taxi service comes from donations and federal block grants. Wolff said that money has been fading over the past few years.

"We used to get maybe a $16,000 to $17,000 grant," Wolff said. "This year we only got $7,000. So we need to make up the rest of it."

The service is subsidized by Waukesha County through the Shared-Fare Taxi Program, allowing Elmbrook Senior Taxi to charge $4 per one-way trip for qualifying riders. Rides to Mayfair mall and Froedtert Hospital cost an additional $1.

Wolff said more services similar to Elmbrook Senior Taxi in the area are requesting the same block grants the program needs, leading to a thinly spread allocation of already limited funding.

With increasing gas prices, insurance rates and car maintenance costs, the women are concerned about the future of the program.

"I think the money may be there for at least a couple years," Wolff said.

With only two cars in operation, schedulers sometimes have to turn down riders because of availability.

Phyllis Wesolowski of Brookfield works as a scheduler and driver and has come up with better ways to coordinate trips to keep rejections down.

"We try to combine rides so we don't have to turn people down," she said. "It saves gas, and people can get to know each other better."

Elmbrook Senior Taxi has an ongoing fundraiser with a goal of $10,000 to keep the service going and possibly add a third car.

Donations can be mailed to the Elmbrook Senior Taxi, c/o Sandy Wolff, 17285 W. River Birch Drive, Brookfield, WI 53045.

Get a Ride

WHAT: Elmbrook Senior Taxi

HOURS: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays

CALL: (262) 785-1200 at least 24 hours before the ride will be needed

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