Representatives of Saco, Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, Seeds of Hope and Saco & Biddfeord Savings Institution join Perian Carpenter of Shuttle Bus Zoom during an event in Saco on Friday that awarded hundreds of free bus passes to be used to help those in need. ED PIERCE/Journal Tribune

SACO — Local communities and social service agencies have a powerful new tool to help build resilience and assist those in need.

On Friday morning, Shuttle Bus Zoom’s Transit Angel Project gave the city of Biddeford, the city of Saco, the town of Old Orchard Beach and the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center hundreds of public transportation passes to be used by the elderly, the poor and anyone deserving of a helping hand.

The Transit Angel program was created in April as the brainchild of Perian Carpenter, Shuttle Bus Zoom’s mobility manager and is intended to alleviate public transportation issues in the area and was recently boosted thanks to a generous donation from Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution.

Carpenter said that the need for transportation is critical in the community, but some residents, such as homeless individuals, seniors, new immigrants or those displaced by tragic circumstances, are unable to simply go from one place to another because they lack the financial resources to even afford a bus trip across town.

“We encourage people to ride the bus and it’s easy to use, but many lack the financial ability to take a trip on the bus across town,” Carpenter said. “This program addresses that and these passes will be a big help to many people.”

Even though communities such as Biddeford and Saco have great downtown areas for pedestrians, the cities also have large outlying areas and many places, including medical facilities are out of walking distance and many residents are not be able to reach those locations without bus transportation. Using the bus passes will offset some of the expense to get there for those who require basic affordable transportation services the most.

Under the Transit Angel program, area charities such as Seeds of Hope will work with Shuttle Bus Zoom to identify those in need and will now have bus passes available to assist them.

A typical one-way fare on Shuttle Bus Zoom is $1.50 and bus fare for a one-way trip to Portland is $5.

A contingent of Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution staff members attended Friday’s presentation including Amanda Lutz, Julie Villemaire, Michael Rague, Pat Pelletier and Andy Kany.

According to SBSI Senior Vice President Jeff Vachon, the donation to fund the Transit Angel program shows a commitment to the community and assisting others who can use assistance.

“We saw a need, part of being in the community is helping those around us,” Vachon said. “Being able to get to your place of employment, school or appointments shouldn’t have be a struggle. We are pleased to be able to partner with the Transit Angel Program to help ensure those in our communities have the transportation they need.”

Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Larry Mead gratefully accepted the passes on behalf of his entire community.

“It really liberates people to get the services that they need,” he said. “We truly appreciate it.”

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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