‘They don’t want to drive’: Volunteer-driven B.C. charities hit hard by rising gas prices

Click to play video: 'B.C. charities hit hard by rising gas prices'
B.C. charities hit hard by rising gas prices
WATCH: A growing number of B.C. charities say they are struggling to deal with the rising price of gas. Paul Johnson reports – Mar 10, 2022

With the cost of gas in the Lower Mainland continuing to hover above $2 per litre, pain at the pump is translating into pain for some of B.C.’s critical charities.

Shannon Woykin, executive director for Langley’s Meals on Wheels program, says volunteers with her organization drop off about 165 hot, nutritious meals per day to seniors, people with mobility issues and other vulnerable people.

Read more: B.C. gas prices keep rising, adding more pressure on struggling travel sector

“Our meals are more than just a meal because that is a safety check in, and it is a social connection that somebody might not have otherwise,” she said.

“Our volunteers can be and sometimes are the only person that person sees in a day.”

But those daily rounds add up; Woykin said in a week a volunteer can put down as much as 650 kilometres — about the distance from Vancouver to the Kootenays.

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And all that driving is getting expensive.

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Heated debate over gas prices during question period at B.C. legislature

“Our new volunteers that are applying have stipulated they don’t want to drive,” she said.

“We will have to find funds if it comes to where our volunteers have to choose whether they can afford to volunteer for us.”

Read more: Metro Vancouver drivers can get cheaper gas and skip the required COVID tests in Point Roberts

Larry Coleman, director with the Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society, is facing a similar dilemma.

The non-profit provides free transportation to and from treatments and related medical appointments for Lower Mainland residents battling cancer.

Coleman himself is on the road every day, and estimates each trip is about 80 kilometres round trip in a car that’s seen its gas bill climb from $60 per tank to $90 in recent weeks.

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NDP government under continuing pressure over high gas prices

Making matters worse, the society is in desperate need of more drivers — a hard sell with current fuel prices.

“There’s even more demand. We need probably somewhere between 80 and 100 more drivers,” he said.

The society does offer volunteers a stipend of 52 cents per kilometre, which had been based on gas priced at $1.60 per litre.

With no government funding, Coleman said it will be a stretch to cover higher costs.

Read more: Metro Vancouver has the highest gas prices in North America with more increases expected

“We’re hoping that gas will come down and we won’t have to increase our stipend much,” he said.

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While international forces driving high prices, such as the war in Ukraine, show no sign of abating any time soon, the charities may be in for a break at least in the short term.

Fuel industry analyst Dan McTeague with Canadians for Affordable Energy projected Metro Vancouver gas prices could drop by 15 cents on Friday to $1.99.9, and fall up to another four cents on Saturday.

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