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The Yankee Express

Tasks for Transit fuels possibilities for people in need

By Christine Galeone
Although the economy has improved since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families and individuals are still struggling financially. Those struggles are apparent in the increase of food insecurity throughout the state. But regularly being able to access healthy food isn’t the only challenge facing those who are unemployed or have low incomes.
Steve McClure, the co-founder of Tasks for Transit, said that the need for transportation assistance is greater than ever. “We serve the economically disadvantaged in Greater Worcester,” he said. “The size of that group has increased during the pandemic.”
Fortunately, Tasks for Transit will resume its operations on January 1. That’s the same day that the Worcester Regional Transit Authority (WRTA) will once again collect bus fares from its passengers. The Millbury-based nonprofit generally provides thousands of WRTA bus passes to people in need each year.  
Established in 2015, Tasks for Transit is a volunteer-run nonprofit with donated office space to keep its operating costs down. McClure said that the nonprofit’s mission is “to provide transportation to the economically disadvantaged in Greater Worcester, so that they can access the services offered for them at the various charities and government departments in the Greater Worcester area, get to and from medical appointments, job interviews or other similar needs.” It accomplishes that mission by partnering with Central Massachusetts charities that serve people who could benefit from free WRTA bus passes.
The nonprofit serves people through its Free WRTA Bus Day Pass Program and its Job Fare program. The first provides ten WRTA bus passes to each of its 31 partner charities every month.  The second provides – upon request – a kit to a partner charity serving someone who just got a job. The kit includes a 31-day WRTA bus pass, a free haircut voucher and a list of resources. It enables the new employee to be able to get to work until that person is able to earn enough money to pay for transportation.
The effectiveness of its partner charities, which include highly-regarded nonprofits such as Veterans, Inc., Interfaith Hospitality Network of Worcester and Hotel Grace, is bolstered by the transportation assistance for its clients. One partner nonprofit reported to Tasks for Transit that a woman was able to attend a GED program because of the bus passes. Another reported that a single mother and recovering addict was able to get to a treatment center.  
“A poor woman was given a free day pass by the Worcester South Neighborhood Center – another TFT partner charity – to go to a job interview,” McClure recalled. “She went, had the interview and got the job. Soon after, she bought herself a one-year pass.”
Aware that most nonprofits that assist people with low or no incomes view lack of transportation as an important issue, McClure said that Tasks for Transit has increased the number of charities it partners with from six in 2016 to 31 in 2021. And although the WRTA Board decided, this month, to extend the free fares that it instituted at the beginning of the pandemic to January 1, it had intended to resume charging fares on July 1. And Tasks for Transit had been ready to restart operations as well. 
Tasks for Transit hopes to expand its reach. McClure said, “We will continue to operate both of our programs, and we will expand our network of charity partners, adding four additional ones each year.”
“Tasks for Transit has determined that between two thirds and three quarters of the local area charities are not able to provide transportation with their programs,” McClure shared. “In other words, this is a pervasive problem and, given the impact of the pandemic, the need is great. Tasks for Transit is working to fill this need.”
More information about the nonprofit is available on the Tasks for Transit website, www.tasksfortransit.org
If you would like to suggest a Blackstone Valley nonprofit or initiative for this series, please contact Christine at [email protected]