Duxbury seniors are looking for Santa Claus this holiday season.  Actually, they are looking for several Santas.

Duxbury seniors are looking for Santa Claus this holiday season.  Actually, they are looking for several Santas.

Rather than gifts under their tree, however, a dedicated group of volunteers is looking for donations from the community to replace “Sadie,” the bus that for the past seven years has brought seniors from their homes to the senior center, doctor’s appointments, pharmacy, grocery store and other errands, helping many who don’t drive anymore get around town.

Duxbury seniors are looking for Santa Claus this holiday season.  Actually, they are looking for several Santas.

Rather than gifts under their tree, however, a dedicated group of volunteers is looking for donations from the community to replace “Sadie,” the bus that for the past seven years has brought seniors from their homes to the senior center, doctor’s appointments, pharmacy, grocery store and other errands, helping many who don’t drive anymore get around town.

With over 135,000 miles on Sadie and the old bus constantly under repair, a group of seniors is pooling money to replace it with a new vehicle to ensure seniors have a safe way to get what they need to live.

“Sadie stands for ëSeniors Are Duxbury’s Independent Elderly,’” said Gail McCormack, a senior with a disability who relies on the bus to get around town.  “That bus keeps seniors independent.”

McCormick said she and many other seniors enjoy the freedom Sadie allows them, but in recent times, the bus has broken down or been out of service several times, leaks water and lacks shocks among other problems.  In recent months, the fire department had to assist seniors off the bus after the doors stuck shut.  Recently, the bus went in to have the breaks looked at after being replaced three months earlier. 

Phil Barnes, who’s driven the bus for seven years, said he “never knows what will happen” when he starts up Sadie and that a new bus would actually save money.

“It gets to a point that you are putting good money out for bad [for repairs] ñit’s wasting money,” he said.

Council on Aging Director Kristin Andrews agrees and said the bus is overdue for replacement, but lack of funding is the main obstacle. Estimating the cost at $57,000, she said the bus is a big ticket item on her capital request for this year that must be approved by voters at Annual Town Meeting to help seniors maintain their independence.

Town Manager Rocco Longo said that in addition to working on securing a regional bus service for town, he recognizes that the senior bus is in “desperate need of repair or replacement.”

“This will be no surprise when it comes through the budget process and the Council on Aging, Selectmen and eventually Town Meeting will decide if we have the money at this point,” he said.

Andrews said the bus makes several crucial stops for seniors every day and even takes them on trips every Friday for shopping or entertainment and a meal.  However, with the weather getting colder, the Duxbury Senior Center has stopped the trips due to Sadie’s poor health.

“We’ve stopped the trips until the spring because we don’t want the bus to break down without heat,” said Andrews.  “It breaks down a lot and the town has been good in terms of fixing it when it gets a chance.”

Faced with these problems, Andrews said that seniors have quietly told her of problems with the bus and those who can have tried to find other means of transportation like carpooling with friends who still drive.

“We don’t even have a taxi service in town, not that we’d want people to pay, but seniors are really dependant on the bus,” she said.  “Our goal at the COA is to help people remain in their homes as long as they are safe and healthy to do so and this is one way to help them get around.”

Senior Josephine Borghesani said she uses the bus daily and it is her only way to get around town.

“I rely on that bus if I have to go to the post office, the grocery store or most importantly, pick up medications,” she said.

Husband and wife Donald and Carrie McLean use the senior bus three to four times a week and say they can’t get out on their own without it. 

In an effort to get a replacement for Sadie, seniors like these and even those who don’t ride the bus have taken the lead in raising funds for a new vehicle.

Led by Sadie’s Bus Fund Committee, which operates under the Friends of the COA, the group has held bake sales, raffles and collected donations from fellow Duxbury seniors.

The fundraising began at the COA’s Octoberfest when Duxbury resident Regina Finninger, who does not rely on the bus, said if she won the 50/50 raffle she’d start a fund for the bus and even match any other donations of $50 or more 100 percent that came in that night.

“I had ridden the bus with a friend on a trip and we bounced around so badly, a woman had tears in her eyes,” said Finninger.  “I thought here I am driving in a comfortable car and I could instead be [dependant] on that bus, so I started the fund.”

McCormick said the move by Finninger inspired her to also take action and the two quickly recruited others for the cause.

She was not the only one moved, however.  At the event, an anonymous donor came forward to continue matching donations of $50 or more up to $5000.

In November, the Center held a winter fair in which a raffle and bake sale produced nearly $1600, including the matched funds.  The “Crafty Ladies” group even donated their proceeds from the fair to the cause, putting in another $800 with the match included.

Finninger said that the group has raised around $3,500, but wants to raise as much as possible to present to the town at next year’s Annual Town Meeting when funding for the bus is discussed.