WATERVILLE — After reading about money running out for a transportation service for low-income people, two local business owners decided to pick up the tab to insure the service continues until funding returns in the new fiscal year.

Mike Roy and Brent Burger, owners of five Campbell’s Agway True Value stores in the region, read the story in the Morning Sentinel and decided to lend a hand.

With about two weeks remaining in the fiscal year, the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program’s transportation service had to cancel rides to non-emergency services for some of its neediest users in Somerset and Kennebec counties.

Funding ran out for low-income people who qualify for the ride service, although rides for those needing critical treatment, such as cancer or dialysis, and for MaineCare patients and child welfare recipients were never in jeopardy. The shortfall affects lower-income riders and has happened in the past, but it was more pronounced this year.

The major portion of the transportation funds is provided by a state Department of Health and Human Services grant. Of the $225,000 allocated for the low-income service, Transportation Director Jim Wood said, $190,000 comes from DHHS. The remainder comes from private donors.

The shortfall of $8,000 would have left the low-income clients without rides — that is, until Roy and Burger stepped in.

Suzanne Walsh, chief executive officer of KVCAP, said that after the article was published, Roy and Burger called her to contribute the money to carry the service into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. After they committed themselves to picking up the cost, the organization spent Friday morning calling clients to tell them the rides were available.

“It’s really awesome,” Walsh said. “It’s such a relief to let riders know we can still provide their rides for the next couple of weeks.”

The organization anticipates Burger and Roy’s contribution will cover about 375 trips to non-emergency services for its clients.

Walsh said Roy and Burger called unexpectedly, but they were very concerned.

“They’re very great community members,” she said.

“When we read about that shortfall, it seemed to be right up our alley,” Burger said, and supporting the service was “perfectly within our mission to support underserved families and children.”

The story of clients losing their rides was very unfortunate, Burger said, and their ability to be able to close the gap and keep people on schedule was a good thing. He said he put himself in the position of the clients losing rides and how they would feel if necessary transportation suddenly wasn’t available.

“We want to continue to help support those people who need that kind of support who are otherwise in a place where they don’t have that advantage,” Burger said.

They did hear back from Walsh after making the contribution, Burger said, and they receive great feedback for their charitable contributions, but they don’t make a big deal out of what they do. They consider their actions a “hand up” versus a “hand out.”

“I believe we can help people who truly need the help, and that’s important,” Burger said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis