Skip to content

Campaign to replace community handivans kicking into high gear

Aging van heightens the risk of cancelled medical appointments
Pictured here is Ponoka’s current handivan. A campaign is underway to raise funds for the purchase of two new vans to serve the community. (Photo submitted)

Organizers behind a new fundraising campaign to replace two aging handivans are spreading the word about how essential this service is to many across the local area.

“It can take a while to get an appointment for example, and then if the handivan is unavailable, the client would have to miss that appointment,” said Doug Gill, director of the Ponoka Handivan Society.

There are currently two vans in use— one is dedicated to in-town service and the other for out-of-town clients.

“With the present vans, they are identical so we’ve been able to swap them out and try and keep the mileage just about equal on them,” he said, adding that the greatest number of clients reside in Ponoka. “This also means that if one van is down, whether it be the in-town one or the out-of-town one, we move van service to in-town only,” he said.

“So anyone who has an out-of-town trip when the vans are being repaired or having maintenance done, it’s those people who are even more at risk (for canceled appointments).

“That’s another key reason that we need to replace them because they are requiring more and more maintenance. So it would be a shame to wait four or six months for an appointment and then have to miss it,” he said.

The operation and management of the vans is essentially a partnership between Ponoka FCSS and the Ponoka Handivan Society.

The service provides transportation for everything from medical appointments and family get-togethers to shopping trips and a range of social events.

At times, accessing services or particular events — particularly in rural communities — can be quite limited for those without another means of transportation.

The Ponoka Handivan Society has been around since 1977, and that non-profit board over the years has fundraised and managed the handivans in the community.

Funding to maintain the vans comes from contributions from the town, the county, and patron fees and donations.

In the meantime, campaign organizers are hoping to raise upwards of $100,000.

The goal is to have the new vans in operation prior to this winter.

“We will really be rolling it out the first week of September.”

If anyone would like to donate, the options include writing a cheque to the Ponoka Handivan Society and dropping it off at the Ponoka FCSS office. Cheques can also be mailed to the Ponoka Handivan Society c/o Ponoka FCSS (Box 4004, Ponoka). The postal code is T4J 1R5.

Donations can also be made online via the ‘Canada Helps’ website.

Type in ‘Ponoka Covered Wagon Handicapped Transport Society.’

“We are getting geared up to approach some of the organizations in town. And some of them are already looking forward to getting in touch with us. So there is quite an awareness,” said Gill, adding that the handivan service also offers something of a break to caregivers who are responsible for driving loved ones on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, and as Gill pointed out, another way for folks to perhaps look at supporting the campaign is to purchase a ‘seat’ for $1,600.

Ponoka resident Maxine Jonson has opted to support the campaign this way. “I have friends who use it, but I can still get a driver for my car,” she explained.

But she doesn’t want to see the service stopped, as unfortunately it has been forced to in other communities.

“Please, let’s not lose this opportunity because we do not want to be without this,” she said.

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
Read more