Reeth Community Transport might provide vital services to an area where bus services are scarce, but the charity’s work is as much about ‘community’ as it is about the transport it provides.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant many organisations have changed the way they operate, with services to help vulnerable members of the community increasingly at the forefront of their work.

Reeth Community Transport was perhaps different to some similar organisations because even before the pandemic, its volunteers offered more than just transport to the clients who relied on it.

Many had become friends of the volunteers who made the service work and were there to offer support and assistance as well as the transport that formed the core of their work.

Through the pandemic, that role became increasingly important, with volunteers launching a befriending service – mainly by phone but on a ‘pen pal’ basis for those with hearing difficulties – and a host of other forms of assistance.

That meant delivery shopping and prescriptions as well as continuing to take people to medical appointments, including vaccination trips when they became available.

Through the pandemic, the charity’s work has been supported financially with backing from the County Council’s Stronger Communities fund.

Today, the charity has returned to some of its traditional services, providing transport to hospitals and support for clients awaiting appointments, as well as shopping trips to various towns.

While those journeys provide the opportunity for safe social contact and fun, the pleasure trips Community Transport volunteers used to organise remain suspended on safety grounds.

Lady next to a yellow minibus

But a new option has been devised and will be introduced as soon as the Covid situation has subsided enough to allow it.

Open Minds is just that – it will bring people together at different locations, with no idea what they will be invited to get involved in until they arrive.

The aim is improve people’s mental health as well as providing entertainment, with a combination of surprise activities, refreshments and fun.

The project’s name was suggested by an 89-year-old, acknowledging the mental health benefits it will bring, along with the openness of those involved to get involved in whatever activity may be featured.

Volunteer Jill Burdis said: “We are excited about it and were hoping to start in January, but cannot do so at present. We are ready to go when we can, though.

“We have always provided more than transport and have always helped people with things they could not manage.

“We have also sat and held people’s hands at appointments, we know them all,” she said.

Community Transport manager Gail Hall said at the peak of the pandemic around 45 volunteers were involved, with many still present.

“We have lots of volunteers quietly doing things behind the scenes,” she said.