PURTON Age Concern is on a mission to raise £40,000 to replace one of its two vital minibuses.

The 14-year-old Renault is not expected to pass its next MOT without a big bill so the charity has decided it is time to retire it and get a new one.

So far supporters have managed to raise around half the cost with dozens of events like bingo session, garden parties and the sale of calendars.

But a major fundraising campaign is under way to ensure the service is maintained without a gap.

Hazel Woodbridge, who co-ordinates the service for the village, said: “Purton has an amazing number of people who are in their nineties but active and want to go places but can’t manage without the bus.”

She said while some had friends and family to help out, others relied on the service to help them get to the shops, doctors appointments and social events. Almost a thousand people in the village use it.

Some are picked up for lunch clubs and coffee mornings, others for hairdressing appointments.

“We have to run two buses because there are days of the week when we have got both of them out at the same time,” said Hazel.

“One way or another they are on the road every day including Saturday.”

Sometimes when users were given urgent doctors appointments drivers would be diverted from their round to ensure they got to the surgery. “We pride ourselves on never turning anybody down.”

And when it was time to go home they would be seen safely indoors.

“We pick everybody up at their door and we drop them at their door.”

She explained the minibuses had become even more important with the reduction of regular bus services to and from the village and for some the long and hilly walk to the stops in the high street were too difficult.

The appeal has already generated a good deal of support in the area. “An awful lot of people in the village will stop our president and say ‘Here’s a tenner for the minibus fund,” which is fantastic. It just shows how much people appreciate having them.”

Royal Wootton Bassett and Cricklade Area Board has already promised to give a £5,000 grant on the condition that the rest of the funding is in place.

A crowdfunding page has also been set up for people who want to donate online. It can be seen at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/pdacminibusappeal