What first seemed to be a scam at the expense of the ailing Carroll Transit System turned out to be the opposite.
The woman Westminster police questioned last week about soliciting door to door in the name of the non-profit transportation agency turned out to be a client who relies on the agency to get her to medical appointments, said Linda Boyer, executive director of the system.
Betty Ann Walker, 31, of Ward Avenue rides the Carroll Transit vans several times a month for doctor visits and shopping.
"I was going to help them out," Miss Walker said after she heard the agency was considering closing because of state budget cuts.
Carroll Transit's board of directors will meet Wednesday, its deadline to decide whether to keep the agency rolling. Although rides throughout the county are available to anyone for $2 each way, the system's main clients are the elderly, the handicapped and the poor.
Mrs. Boyer and board members began publicizing their plight this month in hopes of gaining community support and donations to help them continue offering rides.
The agency's budget was to be $473,939 this fiscal year, but Mrs. Boyer estimates that state and county cuts will chop that figure by more than $100,000 by the end of this month.
Mrs. Boyer said she will present the board with some short-term solutions Wednesday and will search aggressively for long-term help through state legislators who have asked her to give them more details on what the agency needs.
She hopes to present to the legislators a plan that would allow Carroll Transit to provide transportation for area social-service agencies. She said that would be more cost-effective than having each agency hire its own drivers and buy vans.
In the meantime, she is hoping for more donations from businesses and doctors to whom Carroll Transit delivers patients and customers.
The county budget cuts involve services provided to all county residents and to senior citizens traveling to and from senior centers. The state is cutting subsidies for the agency to take those receiving medical assistance to their doctor, dentist or therapist appointments.
When Miss Walker heard of the crisis, she got a clear-plastic juice jug, taped to it a piece of paper reading "Help Carroll Transit buses" and went door to door Thursday.
One woman she visited was suspicious, and called Carroll Transit. Mrs. Boyer said her staff, unaware of Miss Walker's effort, asked police to investigate. The officer who arrived was sympathetic to Miss Walker and realized she was a client with honest intentions, Mrs. Boyer said.
Miss Walker said she was "shocked" when the police approached her. "I said, 'I'm just trying to help them out.' They said, 'Don't go door to door with a bottle,' " she said.
Once she realized Miss Walker wanted to help, Mrs. Boyer gave her 20 buttons the agency was selling for $1 each to raise money. Instead of the juice bottle, Miss Walker got an envelope to use for the money.
She sold the buttons by the next day and returned to the office Friday to get 20 more to sell.