Farewells, flowers and thanks were given to the fab four leaving Exmouth and District Community Transport.
Pastures new and retirement has prompted coordinator Mel Mock, her husband, Tim, who is a relief driver, Mike Passmore, bus driver, and his wife, Wendy, also a coordinator, to bid fond farewells to the charity.
Now looking forward to retirement, Wendy has been with the community transport service for 21 years, her husband Mike for 20 years.
Mel has been at the charity since 2011 and her husband, Tim, joined five years ago.
Mel, who is leaving for a pastoral role with the Methodist Church, said she is going from one dream job to another.
“I am going to miss the passengers, the lovely comments, and getting to know everybody,” she said.
“You think it’s only putting people on buses and booking seats, but it’s so much more than that.
“We are only a small charity, but we know how much it means to the people and passengers we are dealing with.
“My new role is a pastoral role with Methodist Church, which is the only reason I am going. I think I will regret it, not going for this new job.
“But I am staying on the community transport’s committee – if they will have me.”
The community transport service, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, was founded in Exmouth by Jill Elson as the Ring and Ride, where county council school buses were used to pick up passengers during the day when they were standing idle.
Now the service has its own busses, and a car, and is for anyone who cannot access public transport.
For many elderly or disabled people, it means the difference between loneliness and isolation at home, and day trips out and friendship.
The door-to-door service means passengers see scenic routes of Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton and the outlying villages, as the bus picks each person up from their home, and drops them back at the end of the day.
Drivers carry walking aids to and from the bus, take shopping to the door and lunches to the table.
The charity said Mike Passmore, who is retiring, had been ‘wonderful’ during his time with the charity.
Mel said: “It’s not just about the driving, that’s the easy bit. It takes time to learn the skills.
“Mike embodies empathy. We lost Mike once. He was showing a recently-widowed man around Tesco and the microwave meals. And when he took him home, he showed him how to use his microwave.”
Jill Elson, Exmouth and District Community Transport founder, said: “It’s more than a bus service. I call it a care service. It’s a care bus.”
She added: “I remember a few years ago I was at home, I had this lady in Newton Poppleford ring me.
“She said ‘are you Jill Elson? That bus that goes past my window, is it for me? I am in a wheelchair and haven’t been out of my bungalow for four years’.
“That was the start of why we take the bus over there. We are continually changing the service to suit people’s needs. We try to be flexible.”
Taking over from Mel and Wendy as coordinator is Ros Pope. The charity’s new assistant coordinators are Elaine Raymond and Stella Hall.
Exmouth and District Community Transport group is looking for people to join its management committee as trustees.
See here for more information about the Exmouth and District Community Transport group.
Contact the charity to buy gift vouchers for relatives to use the transport service.