Inaugural Two Miles for Mary fundraising BBQ helps keep seniors transportation on the road

Residents lineup outside Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual in Prince Albert for their inaugural Two Miles for Mary Fundraising BBQ. The annual Two Miles for Mary Radiothon is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29. -- Submitted photo.

Local community members came out in droves to help take a bite out of the increased fuel costs the Prince Albert Community Service Centre (CSC) Seniors Transportation face.

Volunteers and employees from Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual cooked up more than 200 burgers as part of their inaugural Two Miles for Mary Fundraiser BBQ on Monday. Mr. Mikes GM Davinder Singh said they’ve hosted fundraisers for other charities like the YWCA, and were pleased to see that support carry over for this event.

“It just makes me happy,” Singh said. “I wasn’t sure what … we were expecting, but when I saw the lineup all the way to the road, I was like, yeah, there’s a lot of people to support all the causes we have in the city.”

Singh said it was important to support organizations serving local seniors because they helped get Canada to where it is today. He said the decision to support the CSC and Two Miles for Mary was an easy one.

“By all means, if we can help any charity or any organization, whatever we have in our power we’ll always do,” he said.

The past year has been a difficult one for the CSC, and for seniors transportation. According to CAA, Saskatchewan gas prices sit at an average of 166.2 cents/L. A year ago at this time, it was 150.9 cents/L.

“Last year, fuel prices fooled us all, and we really had to scramble to find the funds to get us through to year end,” Community Service Centre CEO Bill Powalinsky said.

“It’s a challenge, and it’s through fundraisers like this and our Two Miles for Mary and our soon to be great chili cook-off that we raise the very important funds to be able to continue the service.”

While fuel prices have gone up, so has the demand for service. The CSC provided 18,654 trips in 2021, according to their most recent annual report, and increase of more than 2,000 from 2020. Prior to COVID, however, the organization provided roughly 30,000 trips per calendar year, and the organization was well on their way hitting that number in 2022, according to the report.

The CSC gets funding from the City of Prince Albert, but Powalinsky said they’re relying more than ever on donations and community support. That’s why events like the Mr. Mikes BBQ fundraiser are so important.

“It was very, very appreciative, not only of the people who came out to support us, but the support that we got from Mr. Mikes as well,” Powalinsky said. “(We’re) pretty excited because this is our first attempt at this.”

The organization’s main fundraiser will go ahead on Friday, Sept. 29 when the Two Miles for Mary Radiothon hits the airwaves from 8 a.m. to noon. The CSC has also partners with The Spin S2dio to host a Two Miles for Mary spin class where all proceeds will go towards seniors transportation.

Powalinsky said a recent survey conducted by the Seniors Advocacy Centre in Prince Albert showed affordable transportation was the number one issue for local seniors. They describe it as a lifeline to the community, Powalinsky explained. Losing access would make it harder for them to stay connected.

“If you cut that lifeline, it leaves people stranded,” he explained. “They rely on the goodness of neighbours or family or friends, but if they don’t have people close by who can give them transportation, they’re basically housebound. The downside is they can’t participate fully and be engaged and contribute to the economic fabric of the community and the social fabric of the community. It’s a loss for everybody.”

Final fundraising totals from the Mr. Mikes BBQ were not available at press time.

To donate to the annual Two Miles for Mary campaign, call 306-763-MARY (6279).