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)

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)

Fundraising campaign underway to replace aging community handivans

A new fundraising campaign has been launched with the goal of replacing two aging handivans that currently serve the community.

“It’s basically an essential service in Ponoka, and there is no alternative method of transportation for the clients of the handivans,” said Shannon Boyce-Campbell, executive director of Ponoka FCSS.

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, she said.

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

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

Doug Gill, director of the society, said that he recalls at one point, transportation was also being provided for students with disabilities to get to school.

“So it does serve all ages,” he said.

“We want to make sure the passengers are safe and comfortable,” he said, adding that another goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about how essential handivans are to a community.

“It’s an important part of the lives of those who either use the service or who have family members who use it.”

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

Meanwhile, Boyce-Campbell said organizers are looking at a fundraising goal of $100,000.

“But that is only a portion of the cost of the vans,” she said. “The operational costs are quite significant as well.”

Added costs come from retrofitting the vans to bolster accessibility, for example.

“There are a lot of safety inspections and requirements — those sorts of things.”

Boyce-Campbell noted that some communities have opted out of providing handivan services due to the costs of running them.

“But we feel it’s definitely an essential service in our community,” she said. “And we keep the costs to the patrons as low as we can.”

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

And as Gill pointed out, another way for folks to perhaps look at supporting the campaign is to purchase a ‘seat’ for $1,600. “It works out to 62 seats,” he said.

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 really appreciate all of the support and effort that Ponoka residents always provide for the community. It’s a caring community, and I’m sure they will see (the need) with this fundraising campaign, too.”