A ‘lifeline’ is how passengers describe the community minibus association which serves Storrington and West Chiltington.
Running five days a week and with nearly 500 members, the buses offer a door-to-door service for older and frail residents.
For a modest payment, members can book a place on the minibus to take them from their homes to shops in Storrington, Pulborough, Worthing or the Holmbush shopping centre at Shoreham.
Social lunches and visits are also planned throughout the year, with more in summer.
The association has been going more than 35 years, has 13 minibuses in all, and is split into seven autonomous divisions including Steyning, Ashington, Billingshurst and Petworth, as well as Storrington and West Chiltington.
The schemes are run by volunteers, so the only costs to cover are that of the vehicles, insurances and fuel.
Honourary general secretary Rodger Hunt said: “We’re here for the passengers. Our shopping destinations have changed in response to what our members wanted. The recession has affected things, but often people will still come on the bus for a day out, even if they’re not buying much.
“It’s social event, they see the same group of friends on the bus each week, after shopping they might go for a cup of tea together.
“And our volunteers make sure everyone is looked after. If we go to collect someone and they don’t answer the door they’ll try a back door or speak to a neighbour, try to make sure the person is ok.”
Jenny Hibbert is an escort - she travels on the bus and helps the passengers get on and off. She volunteered along with her husbandsix years ago. He is a driver. “I really enjoy it, not just because it’s nice helping people, but because we really feel part of the village. When I go shopping myself I often see some of the passengers and we stop for a chat.
“On the days when we go to the shops it’s mostly women who use the minibus, but their husbands often come along for the outings and pub lunches.”
George Prokopowicz has volunteered as a driver for three years: “I like the driving and I like the people. They’re always appreciative and say thank you.”
Nancy Crook, 89, found the minibus an excellent way to meet people when she moved to West Chiltington a couple of years ago. “It’s wonderful, I use it for all sorts of outings and I’ve made lots of friends,” she said.
Julia Lawn, 80, added: “It’s a lifeline for me.”
For more information on volunteering or becoming a member, visit the division’s office next to the Old School, Storrington, ring Sylvia Hyams 01903 745878; Jenny Hibbert 01798 813045; or the booking line 03000 309 390.