Public transit is link to independence

For 82-year-old June Jones of Norton, Mountain Empire Transit is more than just a way to get from here to there. The public transportation service is a lifeline to her independence.

For 35 years, MET has provided public transportation to people of all ages in Lee, Scott and Wise counties and the City of Norton. Mountain Empire Older Citizens operates MET, which provides all its services for free.

Jones is among regular MET riders. After losing her eyesight and driver’s license to macular degeneration, an eye disease that affects a person’s central vision, she rides the public transit system through the week, when family members are working, to get her where she needs and wants to go. She uses the service for weekly standing beauty salon appointments, ladies group lunches, medical appointments and more. 

“I like people, I like going places, and I like being active,” said Jones on a sunny late summer afternoon while sitting outside her backdoor beside a carefully tended hillside flower garden. “Being active” is an understatement, however.

Jones is a familiar face in her community. Many know her from the 37 years she worked as a teacher’s aide for Norton City Schools. “I knew every kid in Norton,” Jones noted. 

Others will recognize her as Mrs. Claus, whom she portrayed in Norton’s Christmas parade for years alongside her late husband, Victor “Vic” Jones, as Santa. 

Others may know her from the Norton Green Thumb Garden Club, of which she has been a member for nearly 53 years, or from a long list of other community and church activities she’s been and remains involved with over the years.

Jones first used Mountain Empire Transit in 2015 to visit her late husband during his stay in a Tri-Cities nursing facility because of a hip fracture. “It was such a blessing to me,” she said. 

She became a more frequent rider after her worsening eye disease made her unable to drive for even short trips close to home. While losing one’s eyesight can be devastating, Jones wouldn’t allow her dimming vision to hinder her from doing the activities she enjoys. 

She learned to use a walking cane for the blind to assist with mobility and was intent on continuing the activities she enjoys. Already familiar with Mountain Empire Transit, she turned to the public transportation service to take her where she wants to go. “MEOC Transit helps me to be the person that I am,” said Jones.

Jones knows a long list of drivers and dispatchers by their first names and can rattle them off quickly: Gale, Greg, Lawrence, Jimmy, Clark, Todd, Mike, Johnny, Donnie, Jeff, Judy, Ralph, Shanghai, Darrell, Jeremy, Bryan and Patty — and others too.

“I got close to so many of them. They are all easy to talk to, and they listen. They are a special group of people,” she added.

“I recommend Mountain Empire Transit to everybody. It’s simple to use. I just make a phone call, and the dispatchers schedule my rides. It has been a Godsend. I don’t know how I could make it without it,” said Jones.

For more information about Mountain Empire Transit Services, call 276-523-7433.