Thousands of passengers – most of senior status and all in need of assistance – are experiencing a smoother, quieter ride, thanks to the new Care Van serving much of the Plateau community.
The Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation unveiled the new van June 22, parking it in front of Foundation headquarters in downtown Enumclaw. Guests could take a look at the $65,000 vehicle, learn about the mission of the Wellness Foundation and enjoy a cookie or two.
The van replaces an older model that had seen better days. It was funded largely through three donations of $10,000 each by Mutual of Enumclaw, Enumclaw Rotary and the now-defunct Foundation for Enumclaw. The remaining money was generated through a “fund an item” rally as part of Holiday Fantasy, the Foundation’s annual dinner/auction.
The Care Van is one of the popular initiatives of the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation, serving thousands of people annually. Operating five days a week, the van can accommodate up to seven riders and two wheelchairs, picking up clients at their homes in Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Buckley, Wilkeson and Carbonado.
Foundation director René Popke said it’s a rare occasion when the van isn’t rolling, as there’s plenty of demand. For example, an older Care Van provided nearly 1,500 transports in 2012; that number quickly grew to almost 2,600 the following year and hit an all-time high of more than 2,900 transports in 2014. The number dipped to 2,600 a year ago, but current demand could see nearly 3,000 trips this year. Popke said the average sits at about 250 riders per month.
The most frequent destinations for van riders are St. Elizabeth Hospital, the Enumclaw Medical Center and the Northwest Kidney Center in Enumclaw. The van is strictly for non-emergency use.
One misunderstanding, perhaps, is that the Care Van is only for senior citizens and the disabled. That’s not true, Popke points out, explaining that the service exists for anyone with a health or wellness-related issue. For example, a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident was a longtime rider as he went through physical therapy.
The Care Van – as a service of the nonprofit Wellness Foundation – operates solely on donations. Part of that financial mix is a suggested donation of $5 per ride.
The van is available to riders from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. For information, or to schedule a ride, call 360-284-2444. Additional information is available online at www.rfwellnessfoundation.org.