WILMINGTON — For more than 10 years, Mark R. Buckley has given rides to neighbors as one of about 50 drivers for the Wilmington Transit Department. The job lets him earn a little extra income, keep himself busy and work flexible hours.
Driving wasn’t initially the career path for Buckley, who first worked for Wilmington Publishing Company for 15 years until that company left Wilmington. Then he worked for Milacron for 25 years, first in Wilmington and later in Cincinnati.
He retired early from Milacron, but he needed a little extra income and something to do, so he thought he’d try driving for the city.
“I had no idea what the city cab really did when I started,” Buckley said. “I would see a cab driving around … but I never really stopped to think to put two and two together.”
Now, he says, he realizes that many people, especially the elderly, rely on the transit department.
“Generations are getting older,” he said, which he believes contributes to an increasing number of riders and those who need the assistant of a lift. “Every year has just picked up more and more and more.
“It’s a great service for the community,” Buckley said. “I like being part of that service to the community – helping the elderly get to their doctor appointments, dialysis, what have you. I feel like I’m doing some good, so it’s important to me.”
And, he said it’s not just the elderly that benefit; it’s people who don’t drive and need a ride to work, those who need to be taken to specialists for treatment, kids being taken to the alternative school or to the Clinton County Youth Council, adults going to GED classes, college students going around town and retirees at Cape May Retirement Village.
Buckley said drivers also take people to get groceries, take them home and help them unload their groceries.
“You’ll traipse back and forth through the yard carrying their groceries,” Buckley said, adding, with a laugh, “And a lot of them have a lot of groceries.”
Buckley estimated that between half and three-quarters of riders are regular riders, some even riding multiple times in a day.
“Without this service, I suppose the population would dwindle again,” Buckley said, adding he’s heard people say they came to Wilmington because of the service.
And the riders are generally appreciative of the drivers, according to Buckley.
“They know that we work hard, and they always comment that they appreciate us,” Buckley said. “Usually, about once a day, I’ll hear” people say they don’t know what they would do without the service.
In fact, said Buckley, who turns 71 this May, one day he may be one of those riders who depends on the service, so he wants the service to remain.
“Another generation and I’ll probably need this facility as well,” Buckley continued, before laughing. “I’m looking ahead.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.