Seniors donate $21,000 to keep the van rolling

The Bonney Lake Senior Center van is closer to being replaced following a donation from the seniors.

A sizable donation from the Bonney Lake Senior Center means that the center’s aging van will be replaced a few years earlier than expected and the fun can keep on rolling.

The Bonney Lake City Council on June 26 accepted a donation of $21,800 from the seniors to put toward the purchase of a new van, estimated at $75,000.

“It sounds like we’re a go,” Senior Center Director Sue Hilberg said, calling the van the “lifeblood of our center.”

The 12-year-old van has more than 170,000 miles on it and the center has begun limiting the miles it can travel in order to extend its life, but that has meant cutting down on trips to ensure that the van can continue to get around town to bring seniors to the center.

“There would be seniors that would not leave their home without the van,” Hilberg said. “I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth.”

“There are people in the community who rely on it daily just to get out,” agreed Phil DeLeo, who is behind the wheel for most of the miles logged on the van’s odometer.

DeLeo estimated that he covers about 100 miles a day picking up and taking home seniors, which adds a lot of wear and tear to the vehicle and has led to a long list of costly repairs.

Since 2003, more than $38,000 has been spent on repairs to the van.

But the center’s van is not scheduled to be replaced until 2015 so a few years ago, the senior center advisory board took matters into their own hands and began a fundraising drive to buy a new van. The center has hosted rummage sales, bingo nights, raffles, bake sales and even received a $7,500 grant from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

“Everything you can ever imagine short of a Chipendale’s dancer,” Hilberg joked about the center’s fundraising efforts.

“They’ve been working on it for two or three years,” City Administrator Don  Morrison said.

According to the city council agenda bill, the city has put aside $49,000 toward the purchase of a van. Morrison said he expects to recoup about $5,000 from the used van, which would give the city enough money to purchase a new one ahead of schedule.

The agenda bill also states “The city finds it cost prohibitive to keep the vehicle in service.”

“We would have waited a few more years, but it might not have lasted that long,” Morrison said.

Hilberg and DeLeo said getting a new van on the road would further enhance the city’s senior programs and bring back the longer trips that many of the seniors loved.

“It will be nice to have one we can rely on again,” DeLeo said.

“It’s the lifeblood of our center,” said Hilberg.