Volunteers in the News Palo Alto Patch September 8, 2011
Abilities United Receives New Vans
Local non-profit showcases donated vans Wednesday afternoon with balloons and ribbon cutting ceremony.
By Alejandro Lopez de Haro, reporter Palo Alto Patch
Local disabled residents have a new way to get around town.
Abilities United, a local non-profit that champions people with developmental and physical disabilities, is rolling out three new Ford vans after a successful fundraising campaign.
These vans will be of great help to the organization’s transportation needs for several of their activities, said Wendy Kuehnl, marketing director at Abilities United.
“These vans are essential because it gives participants a safe transportation mechanism to get to their various volunteer positions,” said Kuehnl.
One program that will see particular improvement is “Community Connections,” an Abilities United Adult Day Activities Program that allows volunteers with developmental and physical disabilities to participate as helpers at more then 30 local non-profits.
The vans are wheelchair accessible and can fit nine passengers. “These vans are essential because some participants are in wheelchairs and need special transportation,” said Kuenhl.
The Community Connects program is very important for Abilities United, said Kuenhl, because participants earn a lot of useful skills, and because the non-profits are able to witness first-hand the effectiveness of these volunteers.
“It allows participants an opportunity to develop social interactive skills and gives them a sense of accomplishment,” said Kuehnl.
The participants are often good at their jobs, and it is through these positive results that Abilities United wishes to change attitudes and misconceptions.
“The program shows to the general community that these individuals have a lot of abilities and do bring lot of value to the community,” said Kuehnl.
The organization had been operating the transportation element of their programs with a set of older vans. They had aged quite a bit and were in need of replacements.
“We have three other vehicles that are over ten years old and falling apart,” said Lynda Steele, Executive Director of Abilities United. “We had to replace them.”
The vans cost more then $150,000 and were sponsored by the Hedco Foundation, the Bothin Foundation, the Mercury News Wishbook Fund and other anonymous donors. A member of the Ford family was also instrumental in the procurement of the vans.
The quality of the Abilities United programs was stated as one of the mains reasons why sponsors decided to get involved.
“Abilities United found us and told us of their need,” said Roger Schwab, of Hedco Foundation. “It looked like a very good program and we decided it to contribute.”
The specific nature of the request and the help that it would provide was another factor that got some sponsors on board.
“It was so specific and worthy,” said Sue McAllister, coordinator of the San Jose Mercury News Wishbook Fund. “Without having this reliable transportation… you could see why it would be very tough for them.”
More then twenty of the participants from this program attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. All showed a lot of excitement and gratitude for the vans that would now take them to their diverse jobs. Some told Patch about the benefits that these vans would bring.
“It’s going to make thing easier for everybody,” said Mike Self, an active member of the Community Connects program. “They are nice and pretty cool.”
Other participants expressed approval for the wide variety of colors that were chosen for the vans.
“They are pretty colorful,” said Armando Santillano. “I like the purple one and the red one.”
Reposted with permission from Palo Alto Patch Story and photos are on