Generosity continues to drive the CARExpress shuttle service to Niagara Falls hospital

Dec 4, 2017

Close to 5,000 patients go to and from the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center each year using the CARExpress shuttle. The long-running service began through the support of a generous donor, and expanded on Monday with the help of another.

(From back left) Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center President Joseph Ruffolo, West Herr Auto Group Owner Scott Bieler, and Maid of the Mist Corporation Chairman James Glynn stand behind a group of Care Express volunteers next to service's new van.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

The CARExpress shuttle service began 24 years ago, with financial support from the Niagara Falls-based Maid of the Mist Corporation. Over the years, the corporation has provided a quarter of a million dollars to fund vans used to take patients to and from doctors’ visits, dialysis treatments, and countless other critical care appointments on a daily basis.

“There’s a lot of poor people in Niagara County and those of us that can have to reach out and help. So that’s what it’s really all about. Nothing more,” said Maid of the Mist Chairman James Glynn.

On Monday morning, the single-van operation doubled in size, thanks to a donation from the West Herr Auto Group. President Scott Bieler was invited to tour Niagara Falls Memorial earlier this year, and said it opened his eyes to the hospital’s impact.

“Not only in the care of the community and taking care of its citizens, but just the financial strength of what this represents here for this community,” said Bieler. “It’s a big part of Niagara Falls, a big part – more than I realized before I came here for my visit.”

Bieler said after his tour, he knew he wanted to help the hospital, and when the opportunity to donate the van came along, it was the right fit for his company whose business is transportation.

The new Dodge Caravan CARExpress van donated to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center by West Herr Auto Group.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

NFMMC Director of Volunteer Services Judy Villani said the additional van is invaluable to a community that is both in need and lacking in transportation options for patients.

“This van provides warm curb-side transportation to the hospital and back to their homes at a minimal of two dollars each way, which is far less than a cab would cost or any other type of transportation.”

The CARExpress shuttles are driven by a corps of 15 volunteers who, according to Villani, not only drive the patients, but also build relationships with them. The volunteers receive no stipend, and are so dedicated that at times when the service isn’t offered, some will drive their own vehicles to patients’ homes to ensure they receive critical care.