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Easy Lift Transportation Hit Hard by Rising Gas Prices

The nonprofit, which has already exceeded its annual fuel budget, struggles to keep up with the needs of its senior and disabled passengers

Gasoline prices are on the rise again in Santa Barbara and throughout the nation, putting pressure on local transportation services.

The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is $4.355 in Santa Barbara, compared with the $3.906 national average, according to GasBuddy.com. California’s average is $4.225.

For nonprofit charity organization Easy Lift Transportation, higher gas prices mean higher demand that’s exhausting resources, according to Executive Director Ernesto Paredes.

“Normally, neighbors or friends are able to drive seniors that would be passengers for Easy Lift, but all those volunteers now can’t afford to drive themselves, let alone friends,” he said. “We have exceeded our supply. We don’t have the capacity for all the requests, so people are having to be put on waiting list for rides.”

Paredes said that, unfortunately, Easy Lift users often don’t have any other means of transportation.

“It stinks when you say you can’t give them a ride because you know how important that ride is. These seniors can’t ride their bikes or afford a taxi,” he said. “We do everything we can to make sure that happens, even making office staff go out and drive so people can have access to a medical appointment or food.”

Easy Lift is actively fundraising through its website to maintain prices at $3.50 each way because it can’t pass the increased gas prices onto passengers. Paredes said the nonprofit is operating $50,000 above its allotted yearly gas budget, but it understands most passengers are struggling to afford a $7 round-trip. It’s difficult because he knows daily trips to dialysis or meal sites cut into seniors’ daily expenses.

“We try to communicate this to our passengers so we can arrange group trips as much as possible, so they we can provide more services,” he said.

Paredes said a loyal Santa Barbara community has stepped up when the need is great for organizations such as Easy Lift.

“Our core supporters have been supportive to this point, but a lot of people see our vans but don’t make the connection that we’re a nonprofit charity,” he said. “We depend on the generosity of organizations and individuals to provide services.”

Click here to make an online donation to the nonprofit.

A barrel of crude oil rose to $113.21 this week from $111.17 a week ago. The average price of a gallon of unleaded gas was $3.088 this time last year and $4.279 a week ago.

According to GasBuddy.com, residents in Santa Barbara can find the least expensive gas at Educated Car Wash, 3735 State St., at $3.99 a gallon. The next least expensive station is Conserv Fuel at 150 S. La Cumbre Road and Thrifty on State Street at $4.15. The most expensive station is listed as the Mobil on Glen Annie Road, with gas priced at $4.59 a gallon.

“Prices pressure us to continue to provide services without cutting back,” Paredes said. “The last thing we want to do is cut vehicles. We are doing everything to put more on the streets.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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