FISH is there to lend a hand but now it needs some help

A Souhegan Valley group that uses volunteers to drive people in need to medical appointments in the Nashua area is looking for a little help itself.

Marcia Nelson, who helps directs Friends In Service Helping (FISH) volunteers, said the group is struggling to keep going because it needs volunteer drivers.

“We currently have 21. However, that doesn’t mean we have 21 available all the time,” she said. Drivers have limited availability during the week.“In 2008 we had 58 drivers. People age and can’t do it anymore. It’s just hard to get people.”

The group also uses volunteers to run an answering service that matches ride requests with available drivers. In addition, they try to coordinate trip requests with existing rider services, such as Souhegan Valley Rides, which is operated by the Nashua Transit Authority.

The goal is “to get people who can use the bus to use the bus and free up drivers,” she said.

FISH was established in 1981 to help residents of Amherst, Lyndeborough, Mont Vernon, Milford and Wilton. To arrange a ride, you must call at least four business days in advance. There is no fee charged for a ride.

Bob Rogers is one of the FISH drivers. He drove from his Lyndeborough home to Wilton Thursday to take a client to an appointment in Bedford. He started driving people several years ago.

“Probably at first at least half my trips were down to the dialysis center in Nashua. Those people have three sessions a week. For family members and friends to truck back and forth, it’s difficult,” he said. “The blue bus takes care of that now. The blue bus doesn’t cover a lot of things, too.

“I used to tell people I’m building up credits. The day is coming when I’m going to be calling for a ride. More than that, I think when you get to be my age you need to feel that you’re still useful. This makes me feel useful.”

Mimi Boyle, Rogers’ rider for the day said the drivers serve as an important lifeline. “There have been times when they couldn’t find me a ride and I have had to impose on neighbors or cancel an appointment I had made three months (prior) because they were so full, then I can’t get it for another three months,” she said.

Once a week service

The on-call bus service, she said, “doesn’t go to half the places I need to go. I use (FISH) at least once a week.”

“Some of these people really need it,” she added. “How else are they going to get to the doctor during the middle of the day when everyone else is at work?” he said. “And, I get to meet an awful lot of nice people.”

FISH has no website. Those wishing to volunteer can call 673-7372