Top accolade for Alford volunteer

Gladys Cruickshank receives her award from broadcaster Jackie Bird
Gladys Cruickshank receives her award from broadcaster Jackie Bird

A local volunteer who set up a transport service to take older people to medical appointments has won a leading award.

Gladys Cruickshank organises Alford Car Transport Services and was named Volunteer of the Year at Age Scotland’s annual conference.

Gladys, 85, and her team drove more than 32,000 miles last year, taking patients to appointments in Aberdeen, Aboyne and Inverurie.

Her determination has seen her travel through heavy snow to take a patient to regular kidney dialysis sessions.

The retired primary school teacher set up the free service in 1999, after hearing about the difficulty one local woman faced in visiting her husband at a care home in Tarland.

With support from the Red Cross and Age Concern (now Age Scotland), she set up the charity and recruited volunteers.

The service now has 30 local drivers who took 884 patients to appointments last year. Gladys organises coffee mornings to help fund the service, while they also receive contributions from users and other local groups.

She said: “Public transport in this area is just not suitable for a lot of elderly people, and getting transport to hospital was very difficult.

“There is a real need for services like this. I’m absolutely astounded I was chosen for the award, but I think that the drivers and what they do should have the largest share of it.”

Janet Sempill, a service user from Muir of Fowlis, said: “It’s saved my life on so many occasions, as I can no longer drive. I’ve been taken all the way to the Buckie Hearing Clinic, which is nearly an hour’s drive away. If I’d had to get a taxi I don’t like to think how much it would have cost.”

Brian Sloan, Age Scotland chief executive, said: “Mrs Cruickshank’s story is truly inspiring and we’re delighted to recognise her incredible work. She and her team of volunteers have made a real difference to the lives of hundreds of older people in their community.”