The city of Craig will soon have a new wheelchair accessible van strictly devoted to transporting residents with disabilities.
The van came about through the efforts of Craig's Independent Life Center, thanks to local support and a grant from the Denver-based Caring for Colorado Foundation.
The free van service will be available to those with disabilities who have an open consumer service record with the Independent Life Center. Disabled area residents can open a consumer service record by making an appointment with the Independent Life Center.
Evelyn Tileston, the executive director of the Independent Life Center, said she hopes to have the service in place by July 4.
Tileston said the van will be available to area residents who are unable to drive due to any disability.
"The most important thing that the van will do is make sure people have a way to get to medical and therapy appointments," Tileston said. "Then after that, work, shopping, things like that."
Tileston estimated the van will immediately assist 50 area residents.
The Independent Life Center is one of 10 state-certified centers that provide independent living assistance.
The center provides several independent living services, including training in skills of daily living, disability peer counseling and help in finding appropriate housing, employment and transportation.
Over half of the center's staff are people with severe disabilities.
The van arrived in Craig the week of June 10.
Tileston said the vehicle will not be available for immediate use because the center is currently working out the details associated with operating such a service.
The center had originally talked with a local cab company about driving the van. However, the cab company recently informed Tileston it would not be able to.
Presently, the center is exploring its options, and most likely will staff the service with its own employees, or as Tileston hopes, with volunteers.
"We're getting a pool of drivers together from the community," Tileston said. "We're looking for volunteers, but we will probably have to pay people as well."
The Independent Life Center received a $33,320 grant from the Caring for Colorado Foundation to help fund the van.
The foundation's mission is to promote and serve the health care needs of
the people of Colorado.
"Caring for Colorado is interested in making sure people have access to health care," Tileston said. "And on that basis we wrote the proposal to them; that there are people in Craig with disabilities who simply don't have access to health care because they don't have transportation."
Local support came from the Craig Kiwanis, the VFW ladies auxiliary and the City Market Cares program.
The city of Craig has offered to donate gasoline and maintenance for the van.
The center found the custom-built Ford van in Michigan, online.
"The reason we did that, is they take the one-ton van chassis and build the van from the chassis up to be wheelchair accessible," Tileston said. "So the tie-downs are properly anchored. The seat belts are properly anchored. The seats can be removed. Its got heavy-duty springs. It isn't a van that was converted. It's a Ford van that is adapted to be wheelchair accessible."
Tileston said there has been a need for such a van since the center's inception in1997.
"I'm tremendously appreciative of all the support that the Craig people have given us," Tileston said. "Both financial and moral support."