Ponoka Wheelchair vans a vital community service

This week's Reflections looks at the vital services of the Wheelchair Van Society.

The Ponoka Covered Wagon Society was formed in 1977 under the enthusiastic direction of founding Board members Pat and Griff Jones, Mrs. Anne Eads, Ernie and Jacklin Smith, Helen and Alvin Spelrem, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kristensen, Millard Martin, and Les and Marion Hoar. At that time, a growing need in our town and districts was to provide adequate transportation for those confined in wheel chairs and persons of all ages who could not otherwise be transported with comfort and dignity by other standard carriers such as personal vehicles or taxis.

A long and proud history

This excellent and compassionate service has remained in place and grown rapidly for close to 40 busy years, and always proudly maintains the same guiding community focus under the guidance of the very active and dedicated Ponoka Wheelchair Van volunteer boards. A public meeting was held at the Ponoka Drop-in Centre on Feb. 3, 1978 to explain the service to the community and districts, and to seek funding support and assistance towards the purchase of equipment, funding operations and staff. The project moved along very quickly and on Oct.19 of the same year, the decision was made to purchase the first initial fully equipped van from Badrys’ Sales and Service for $6,403, which went into service on Dec. 1 at a charge of $1 a trip.

As the services of the Ponoka Wheelchair van (WV) progressed at a rapid pace over the years, a second vehicle was purchased and the staff was increased to two full time and four part-time drivers. Operating seven days a week, the WV service now serves an average of 3,300 customer calls yearly, transporting clients from the town and county to and from medical appointments as well as special events and social activities in and around Ponoka and out of town when required. Trips in town have a fee of $5 one way, while out-of-town trips are also charged for mileage, and all of the services must be booked by appointment two days in advance at phone 403-783-0399, with books of travel tickets also available for purchase. Over the years, the Ponoka Wheelchair Van Society have been blessed with a caring and congenial crew of drivers, who always look forward to greeting and assisting their clients on each and every trip, as well as always being there for all of them with a warm and friendly smile at the end of their scheduled appointments. It is interesting to note that Ponoka is one of the few towns in the Province that provide this vital Wheel Chair Van service.

The present board of the Ponoka Wheelchair Van Society includes Nell and Ken Liddle, Lynn Lawrence, Joan Pattison, Nancy McKenzie, Marlene Perry, Garth Olson, Ed Pattison, Norm Scheiwe, Merle Christensen, Keith Bresee, Beth Sykes, and Vern Dick, many of whom have served for several decades. Funding to keep the year-round operation of the Wheelchair Van service on the road comes from the Ponoka County and the Town of Ponoka, as well as from provincial government grants, the proceeds from the board working a casino every three years, and from kindly individual donations. Personal donations can be dropped off at Sears, at the Funeral Home, the FCSS offices and to members of the board, and are greatly appreciated.

The volunteer Ponoka Wheelchair Van Society meet the fourth Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the Ponoka Seniors’ Drop-in Centre, and new members are always encouraged and welcome to join and help keep this great and caring tradition in motion in our community and districts long into the future. For more information please call 403-783-4632.