-  Sandy Community Center the proud recipient of a new van with all the bells and whistles

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Senior center driver JoAnn Bernhardt stands in the doorway of the 14-passenger van she drives to take local seniors to places of interest. POST PHOTO: JIM HARTThe Sandy Community Center is the proud recipient of a brand new 14-passenger van, with a fold-up lift and stations for two wheelchairs.

The new van is larger than the previous nine-passenger van, which has been in service in Sandy for more than 10 years and has served well for 115,000 miles.

Transit Manager Julie Stephens was responsible for a major part of the work of following specifications and securing the purchase of an upgraded van with features that matched the needs of local seniors, said Community Services Director Nancy Enabnit.

“It was very helpful to have her (Stephens’) expertise,” Enabnit said.

The county program called Ride Connection technically owns the vehicle, but it was purchased for the exclusive use of the Sandy Community Center.

Enabnit said Sandy is part of the Clackamas County Transportation Consortium that subcontracts with Ride Connection, which subcontracts with TriMet to provide lift service for people with physical limitations.

Each senior center in the county has a van for senior transportation, she said, and they are upgraded on as-needed basis.

Sandy’s new van is used to assist in the mobility of local residents who have difficulty leaving their homes, Enabnit said.

“We use the van for things that are specifically related to the center,” she said, “like bringing people in for lunch, taking people grocery shopping and going on excursions.

“Several of the people we bring in either have walkers or wheelchairs, so we could not bring them in if we did not have a lift-equipped vehicle.”

This is a necessary part of the facilities the city uses to care for its oldest and most vulnerable residents.

“We have to have this kind of a vehicle,” Enabnit said.

The van cost more than $60,000, which included a 10-percent match from the senior center’s trust fund and a grant of more than $54,000 from Ride Connection.

The city’s van driver is JoAnn Bernhardt, but on a recent outing Enabnit accompanied the group and drove the van on the return trip — just to see what it is like.

“It was pretty nice,” she said.

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