Transporting seniors and people with cognitive disabilities is a labour of love for Lynda Flisak - love for her clients and most of all love for her mother.
“It will be five years this July 5 that she passed away,” said Flisak. “I started the business May 8, 2017 which would have been her 90th birthday. I dedicate it all to her.”
Flisak worked as a bus driver and transportation coordinator for the Out ‘N About Program at St Joseph’s Health Centre during the final years of her mother’s life. It was there that she saw a demand for the transportation services she now provides.
“I even have a couple clients in their late 40s who have severe anxiety and a couple who have severe fear of men,” she said. “So, I accommodate those and anybody with an acquired brain injury, dementia, aphasia, verbal and non-verbal, Parkinson’s, MS, I can handle and deal with.”
Flisak was born in Guelph in 1960 the third of Mervyn and Georgina Gristey’s six children. She witnessed at an early age the challenges of living with mental illness watching her father, a veteran of the Second World War, struggle with the physical and psychological wounds of war.
“Back then it was called shell shock,” said Flisak. “He was in and out of institutes and we wouldn’t see him for months at a time. My mom worked with what she could do and that is why we all had to work to help out.”
Flisak quit high school at 16 and got a job to help out. Five years later she married Ron Flisak. They have two daughters Michelle, 35 and Melynda, 29 and two granddaughters Adelyn, 5 and Ella, 1.
Her father died just as she was starting her own family.
“He died the day I was supposed to give birth to my daughter,” she said. “I was scheduled for a c-section Jan. 4 at 9 o’clock and Dad decided to die Jan. 4 at 9 o’clock.”
Flisak worked as a school bus driver for 13 years, a cab driver for six years and even had a job driving a snow plow.
“I drove the bus for St Joe’s Out ‘N About Day Program for four years,” she said. “Then I was given the opportunity to be the transportation coordinator for about a year and a half because of all my experience.”
As part of the job she received training in the Geriatric Certificate Program that included Validation Communication Techniques and You First support services. She also attended to her mother who was a resident at St Joseph’s Health Centre.
“My poor mom gets dementia after a life like that,” said Flisak. “She was wheelchair bound. She couldn’t walk, talk, feed herself or do nothing so I went up every night after work and I fed her dinner six days a week.”
Her mother died in 2014 at the age of 87 and Flisak sought a way to honour her memory and help others like her.
“My mom and my mother-in-law could not afford a whole lot,” she said. “When I drove bus for St Joe’s I used to hear so many of them complain about how they felt like a burden to their family. How they could not afford taxis. I thought about what I could do.”
She bought a van, got the proper certification and put the word out to seniors if they need a ride ‘Just Call Lynda’. She sees her business as an alternative for seniors rather than a direct competitor of the taxi services in the city.
“You have to register with me,” she said. “I am not a taxi so, I am not allowed to accept cash at the time of the drive. I send out a monthly invoice and it is very detailed because seniors like to know everything they’re paying for.”
She has more than 200 regular clients and hopes to grow the business.“My ultimate goal is to have a small fleet,” she said. “I would like to have at least eight to 10 vans and an office with a nice staff. I am not in this to be a millionaire. I am just in this to make everyone’s life comfortable.”