I’ve got a great idea! Let’s go to a Broadway show in Manhattan! How about visiting a museum in Connecticut? Maybe we can go to a concert in the Albany area?
Now let’s see, what do we have to do first? Check for available tickets. Consult my personal calendar. Am I going to get there by car, bus or train? How early should I leave? How far is the place from the parking garage, the train station or bus terminal? Who will I go with? How do I get bus or train tickets? When I get there, where will I park? Where will I have lunch or dinner? What’s the weather going to be? What happens to my paid tickets if I can’t go on the trip at the last minute?
Are you overwhelmed yet? Let’s try this, instead. Look at a brochure or website. Sign up. Pay for your tickets. Meet at a charter bus near.by. Now that’s easy! The rest is all arranged for you. Just sit back in your comfy coach seat and you will be transported to and from the venue and restaurant.
That’s the Ulster Savings Bank (USB) “Freedom Select” program available to people over 50 who are USB depositors.
Helen Caunitz, the USB Freedom Select Program Coordinator, is passionate about the program and calls it “White Glove Service,” and indeed, it is. She wants participants to feel safe in the program. For USB, it’s a program that also “builds loyalty and creates good will” in the community it serves.
Freedom Select has been around since the 1990s and currently has about 2,000 members. Some join for bank-related discounts, while others, currently about 500, also enjoy the cultural trips by coach bus, all within a one and a half to two hours distance from our area.
Helen is the heart and soul of the program. She does it all. She selects a variety of trips throughout the year, including shows, concerts and museums, arranging the transportation, restaurant and tickets, and also travels with the group to make sure that every last detail, including having snacks and beverages on board for the trip. One smil.ing participant told me that she felt like a school kid again, on a class bus trip.
One of the most recent trips was to Schenectady in a February snow storm to have lunch at a wonderful restaurant and then off to Proctors Theatre for the national touring company’s production of Les Miserables. “I absolutely enjoyed the entire day. The amiable company, the comfortable bus, driven by a very competent and attentive driver, the lovely lunch and the outstanding production in a beautiful historic theatre made for a wonderful outing,” said another participant.
Helen showed me the entire process end-to-end when I met with and interviewed her at her Kingston USB office. It includes using computer spreadsheets to track reservations, payments and wait lists, and a rather large and drawer full of detailed file folders she maintains for every trip since she began as coordinator in 2013.