How you can help Community Living Huntsville get new wheels to ‘Rev Up Independence’
Jennifer Jerrett, community engagement specialist for Community Living Huntsville, says an oversized and finicky wheelchair-accessible van, while vital for people supported by the not-for-profit organization, needs to be replaced with a more reliable, and more discreet, vehicle. Photo by Community Living Huntsville.
A vital but problematic van has nearly reached the end of its road with Community Living Huntsville and now it’s time to put a donation drive in gear for a more reliable and discreet replacement.
The not-for-profit organization is excited to officially launch its new Rev Up Independence Donation Drive in August 2021 to raise $50,000 for a professionally modified, all-season, wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Essential for Community Inclusion
Trudi Belrose, supervisor of Community Participation and Supported Employment for Community Living Huntsville, says people with developmental disabilities supported by the organization often depend on staff driving an oversized, cumbersome and persnickety wheelchair-accessible white van to reach appointments, volunteer roles, recreational activities and social events both in town and further afield.
The van is essential for service access, community inclusion and independence, so community members can share in every element of living with equal opportunity to participate.
“If we didn’t have our accessible van, Glen wouldn’t have been able to go to the live karaoke night at the local pub, where he made friends with some of the local musicians,” says Trudi, as one example. “He now gets invited by the musicians to their concerts, and other concerts. He has a longer list of friends on Facebook than I do and most of them are cool local musicians.”
Glen has also been able to attend multiday out-of-town conferences for People First of Ontario, an important developmental disability self-advocacy movement, where life-altering advocacy decisions are made.
“For the record, because the white van is so large, it is difficult to navigate in Toronto traffic,” adds Trudi.
And Charlene, a fellow community member who also relies on the van for transportation, has been able to enjoy both leisurely swims at the Canada Summit Centre and an overnight getaway to WindReach Farm in the Greater Toronto Area, thanks to the van.
“The public transit schedule doesn’t allow Charlene to get to the Canada Summit Centre, into the pool, out of the pool, dried off, and back on the bus without it being very rushed,” says Trudi. “And, again, it would be impossible to go away on an overnight without access to a reliable wheelchair-accessible vehicle.”
Time for a Replacement
But when the van rolls up to someone’s home, often as the only ride available, it looks institutional, turns heads, is difficult to maneuver, especially in winter, and has become increasingly unreliable, regardless.
So it comes time for a replacement.
Jennifer Jerrett, community engagement specialist for Community Living Huntsville, says most people in Huntsville and Lake of Bays understand how essential transportation is for anyone who lives in North Muskoka.
“Everyone deserves access to a vehicle that meets their needs and can get them from their home to places they can live, work and play in meaningful ways,” says Jennifer.
Community Living Huntsville now plans to trade in the aged, unwieldy white van, plus raise $50,000, so it can buy a more discreet, accessible vehicle that offers the same access to services, freedoms of choice, and privacy many often take for granted.
“The current van can feel like driving around in a neon sign that screams, ‘Look at me!’ since it’s so large that it turns heads,” says Jennifer. “We want the new accessible vehicle to offer more dignity, privacy and reliability to those who rely on it, and easier maneuvering for staff who drive it.”
But, she says, the community’s help is needed. While the not-for-profit receives provincial funds to offer programs and services, it relies on donations and fundraised dollars for capital expenses, like a new vehicle.
“We can’t do this alone. And the need is now – especially before the snow falls,” says Jennifer. “Our community is so generous, and we hope everyone will help us ‘rev up independence’ by funding a van to fuel community.”
Community Living Huntsville is a not-for-profit, registered charity that supports and advocates alongside people with developmental disabilities to live, work and play in unique and purposeful ways in North Muskoka. Find more at clhuntsville.ca or follow @clhuntsville on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.