When Mary Parry started MyBUS CT in 2009, she aimed to provide community transport for older people and those with mobility issues in Leven, Fife, but she didn’t realise just how much it would grow.
Drop into the Scoonie Bowling Pavilion hub at lunchtime and you’ll find a lively bunch chatting and tucking into a three course meal, with fish and chips, roast pork and a tasty steak pie on the menu.
This all came about after Mary, 72, realised there was no point in providing transport if people didn’t have anywhere to go - and although Leven is a beautiful place to live there’s not much to keep people busy in the local villages.
Before Covid hit they could expect more than 20 guests every day.
Word of mouth and referrals from GPs and social services meant news of the warm welcome spread and, during lockdown, Mary and the group were able to deliver lunches and pick up shopping and prescriptions for people who couldn’t leave the house.
Now the mission is to get local people who are socially isolated back in for lunch. Rab, 76, previously in the Army, is a regular who lives on his own and can cook for himself but likes to come for the company.
“The driver helps me on and off the bus and it gives me something to look forward to,” he says.
“If MyBUS didn’t exist, there would be nothing for us to do around here.”
Driver Alex clearly loves his job – and is always ready to welcome people onto the bus.
“There’s such a buzz,” he says. “Some days the atmosphere is electric, other days it’s chaos, depending on who’s on board.
"For some people, it’s the only time they get out of the house or see anyone all week and you can tell they’re so happy to be there.”
One of the younger members, Peter, 65, used to drive himself, but mobility issues mean he now boards the bus for lunch three times a week – and also attends the Thursday night Man Chat sessions.
“It gives me something to get up for in the morning,” he says.
“My biggest downfall is if I put the telly on in the morning I can sit there all day, but the group gives me something to do. If we can’t come to the centre, the first thing Mary will ask is if we want a hot meal at home.
“On Thursday nights I come for the Man Chat from 7-9pm. There are about eight of us and we don’t talk about anything specific, just whatever comes into our heads. You’re meeting people, getting good food and having a blather.”
Mary and the team have built up a real community, but they are modest about their achievements.
“I wouldn’t like to think I was stuck at home when I’m physically able to do something to help people. The more I put into it, the more I hope it’ll be here when I need it,” she says.
“We’ve been told that there’s no other service like ours that provides lunches, shopping and transport in the area and without funding raised through The Health Lottery we wouldn’t be able to do as much as we do.
“Before we got the funding, I would be shopping, cooking and driving and it was hard to fit it all in.
"Now we employ a cook for 20 hours a week and a driver for 15 hours a week, so I don’t need to worry about how I’m going to get everyone here. If people can’t afford to come, we can subsidise it to keep the cost down for them.
What the MyBUS CT community does runs deeper than just a lunch club. If a regular guest doesn’t turn up, the team will go and check on them.
“One of the ladies who should have come in for lunch today is not feeling well, so we’ll take a lunch out to her and check there’s nothing wrong,” she says.
“Her favourite is apple crumble, so we take her one and see if there’s anything going on and if we can support her in some way. Social workers have said that it gives people a connection in the community so they’re able to stay at home longer. It’s not a case of just helping people when they’re in here, we’re a community and we all look out for each other.”
MyBUS CT Factfile
MyBUS CT: providing wheels to the community
Founded by Mary Parry in 2009 Supporting social connections for older people and those with mobility issues in Leven
Local community transport plus a three-course meal
Funding of £38,400 raised through Health Lottery Scotland
MyBUS CT website