Care Van revving up for return

The Enumclaw Regional Healthcare Foundation plans to have the Care Van back on the road this spring, but could use some help.

The Foundation, with the local hospital operating the van, began offering the free Care Van service in 1987 as a way to transport seniors and disabled residents to medical, dental and eye appointments, hospital visits and the pharmacy. The van served people in the Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Buckley and east Bonney Lake areas.

Since the nonprofit, volunteer-board Foundation was formed in 1982, it has raised more than $3 million to provide services, program and equipment for St. Elizabeth Hospital, area residents and organizations with the goal of fulfilling the healthcare needs of residents in the area.

The Care Van is one of many programs ERHF oversees.

According to statistics from ERHF Executive Director René Popke, in its first year of service, the Care Van delivered 844 riders to their destination. In 10 years, ridership grew to 1,800. When service was halted in June 2010, ridership was at 250 to 300 a month.

The Foundation is poised to bring the current van, complete with a lift, into service. But, like the past program, it relies heavily on donations.

Franciscan Health System recently made a major contribution of $15,000.

The Foundation is getting ready to launch a Buy A Gallon of Gas campaign, which it kicked off at its Dec. 10 Holiday Fantasy dinner-auction fundraiser. At checkout, patrons at the event could make a $5 donation to purchase a gallon of gas. That portion of the program raised $210. Part of funds raised from the evening’s games also were earmarked for the Care Van, raising another $1,000 for the cause.

But, Popke estimates it will take about $40,000 a year to keep the Care Van on the road.

She’s working on grants and with a local business. The Foundation is also accepting tax-deductible donations at its office at 1174 Myrtle St., Suite 103, in Enumclaw or online at For information, call Popke at 360-802-3206.

The Foundation plans to have the Care Van ready to roll in the first part of 2012, operating 22 hours per week with days yet to be determined.