April 25 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, December 7, 2013
For 20 years, Geoff Banham has travelled the length and breadth of the country driving elderly and vulnerable people to their holiday destination, a dentist appointment or just to do a weekly shop.
As the founder member of a community transport group, the 78-year-old from Hempnall, near Bungay, has met thousands of people who have used the service, meeting some lifelong friends along the way.
But after two decades, Mr Banham is retiring having clocked up an incredible 400,000 miles of driving –and all on a voluntary basis.
Forced to take early retirement, Mr Banham joined a Lowestoft community transport organisation and in 1993 launched a breakaway group to cover Beccles and Bungay, which he ran from his home with wife Betty.
They began with seven drivers and aimed to help people living in both towns and the surrounding villages who didn’t have access to their own transport to attend appointments, day care or social events.
The success of his venture led to the formation of Bungay Area Community Transport in 1997, and by 2004 with demand growing from a wider area, it became the Beccles and Bungay Area Community Tranport group (BACT).
Today, BACT has a large fleet of vehicles and a team of drivers providing a wide range of services including dial-a-ride, a community minibus, a community car scheme and wheelchair accessible vehicles for the elderly, unemployed, those with disabilities and community groups.
Mr Banham said: “When we first started, me and the other drivers would go out and about helping people in our own cars while my wife took all the calls and arranged the journeys.
“Over the years we have managed to secure funding to employ a co-ordinator, buy vehicles and move into offices in Bungay.
“The organisation now plays a very important role within the community, which is very much recognised and respected.
“I have driven near enough 400,000 miles as at one point I was doing it seven days a week. In the early stages I used to take people on their holidays, I took one lady to St Leonards, near Hastings, and then went back the next weekend to pick her up.”
Are you doing something to help the community where you live? Email firstname.lastname@example.org