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Plea for Project Action funds

Project Action volunteer Ernest “Shuby” DeGrilla. The charity is hoping to raise $150,000 to buy two new buses (Phototgraph by Blaire Simmons)

For more than ten years, Ernest “Shuby” DeGrilla has helped the island’s seniors see the island and make doctor’s appointments through his work at Project Action.

However, with the charity’s future still in the balance, he hopes more people will step forward to help the important free service continue.

“I hope things will continue,” he said. “I really do because these seniors really need that bus.”

Mr DeGrilla said he became involved with the charity after he retired. Speaking to The Royal Gazette yesterday, he recalled gardening outside his house when he was approached about driving a bus for Project Action.

Since then, he has dedicated much of his time to the charity, which provides free transportation for the island’s seniors.

“We start out in the early morning getting folks to dialysis and their medical appointments,” he said. “We usually bring in six to eight people every day, Monday through Friday, and take them home, finishing up at 1pm or 2pm.

“We start at around 3.30am and it doesn’t stop. We go back and forth until we get them all back home.

“Sometimes we also help out getting people to church fairs and things like the End to End and we try to help out the rest homes as much as we can, getting people out and letting them get some fresh air.

“You wouldn’t believe how grateful they are. A lot of them cannot thank you enough. They appreciate being able to see a little bit of Bermuda.”

Last month, cofounder Cindy Swan announced that the charity was in desperate need of financial support, asking the Government, international businesses and members of the public to help. In total, she said the charity needed $10,000 by tomorrow to cover repairs and other expenses or they would be forced to close.

In addition, the charity needs to find a way to cover its annual costs, estimated to be around $10,000. Mr DeGrilla said that so far, members of the public have donated enough to allow the bus to be repaired and return to the road, saying he would be driving the vehicle into the shop this morning and hoped to be picking up seniors again on Monday.

Mrs Swan said yesterday: “We have not reached our goal as of yet, but we remain hopeful and staying positive.

“We are so humbled by the outpour of support from the community.

“The $20 and $50 online depositors, we appreciate your donation, as our first donation was $7.

“We appreciate all the media kind assistance in getting the word out from social media, radio, television newspaper and word of mouth.

“We have had inquiries from several corporate donors, requesting more information and financials, which we have sent over and are awaiting their responses. No word as of yet from the Government.”

She said the charity remained optimistic that Project Action would be saved, saying: “We now have sufficient funds to get the red bus repaired. Raising the $10,000 by July 15, will give us breathing room to pay down some of the outstanding payables but the real challenge will be to raise the operating budget of $110,000 and $65,000 for a new vehicle.

“If we reach our goal, we are prepared to start an active campaign to get sponsorships for our annual budget and new vehicle.

“We shall be applying once again and making applications to the major contributors the banks, international businesses and government grants for their financial commitments.”

Mr DeGrilla urged anyone who is interested in contributing to do so, saying: “I know the seniors really appreciate it.”

For more information about making a donation, e-mail: organize@logic.bm