Even if the thermometer dips well below freezing and snow falls relentlessly, the handi-van in Rimbey is always on standby with a volunteer driver at the wheel, ready and willing to help out wherever and whenever needed.
Colleen Weyman, who uses a wheelchair and spends sometime in long-term care at the Rimbey Hospital said the van is a godsend to her and others in a similar situation.
“We need it. If we don’t have it a lot of us can’t get around. We really do rely on it and the drivers are very helpful. It certainly is a needed thing here in Rimbey.”
The van, a 2012 GMC has a lift and holds six passengers (two wheelchairs) was purchased by the Blindman Handi-Van Society through government grants and a $20,000 donation from Rimbey Legion.
The society also owns a 2008 Ford van which is used for out of town trips.
Vice chairman Harold Kenney said the service has been around for about 28 years, and is very much needed.
“It is one of the very few non-profits (handivan services) left,” he said. “We largely exist through grants and donations.”
User fares are reasonable; only $5 for a round trip in town and 45 cents a kilometer for out of town trips.
“Our fares help cover our operating costs, but we operate at a loss,” said Kenney.
Winter can be extremely busy for the handi-van.
“The coldest days can be our busiest days,” said Kenney. “We can be going steady all day. Medical issues are a priority and it is difficult for seniors to get around in the winter when there is lots of snow. It can be very treacherous.”
Volunteer drivers work a week at a time, and shifts run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Presently full time drivers are Ted Evernden, Gene Shopiuk, Earl Jensen, Don Connell and Al Elliott. Part time drivers are Harold Kenney and Wayne Colenutt.
Kenney said the drivers keep the handi-van in business.
“They are a very dedicated bunch. It’s a very good volunteer organization to work with. Everyone gets along so well.”
Al Elliott has only been driving the handi-van for about six months, but he loves the job.
“You get to meet all kinds of interesting people and it’s a good way to help out. And it’s only for a week once every five weeks. It’s great. I really do love it.”
Unfortunately, some drivers have had to give up the volunteer position due to health issues.
“We are in constant need of drivers. Anyone who has a clean driver’s abstract and a desire to help people should give us a call.
Anyone interested in helping out may contact Don McFadyen at 403-843-3627 or Harold Kenney at 403-843-6289.
To use the handi-van service calls the Handi-Van Society at 403-843-7733.