Wheelchair-accessible van a welcome addition to NEPS fleet
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Mar. 25, 2013
A Ford F350 SuperDuty van graces the parking lot behind Northeastern Placement Services in Woodstock these days. With room for up to two wheelchairs and six riders, it is a welcome addition to the NEPS fleet. The vehicle was purchased with the help of funds raised from the annual Summer Celebration and a grant funded through the Connecticut Department of Transportation. NEPS contributed approximately $9,000 of the $53,000 price tag for the vehicle. Day Program Director Cheryl Fogg said if it weren't for the Summer Celebration in July, the service organization would have to rely primarily on a fleet of leased vehicles.
The van will play an integral role in transporting clients on daily runs to and from the Woodstock location. Thirty clients from as far away as Willimantic, Mansfield, Moosup and Stafford Springs use or have used the transportation services NEPS provides. That transportation is mostly for day programs and in-house residential programs, according to Fogg.
Support Coordinator Sharon Morissette wrote the grant at the request of past Executive Director Rick Roy. Morissette said the vehicle was built according to the needs and wishes of the NEPS community. Roy and Fogg worked with a team at the DOT in Wethersfield to create their van.
“We were able to build one that would suit our needs,” Fogg said. “We got to choose the number of seats, wheelchair slots and seat configuration. Our mission is to integrate our clients into the community because they have been discriminated against for so long,” Fogg said. For many clients, the NEPS programs are their only opportunity to get out into the community, she said. “Nobody drives. They always need support.”
“The van and transportation services provide them the opportunity to get out into the community,” Morissette said. “It's wheelchair accessible and easy to get in and out of. It lets them live everyday normal lives like the rest of us.”
Clients and drivers alike are happy with the new van. Driver Ken Sabourin said it was a pleasure to drive. “It runs great. It runs beautiful,” he said. One client said it was easier to get around in. “It has lots of grab bars and more space to walk,” he said.
“We call it the fun bus,” said Fogg.