It was only a couple months ago that Austintown Senior Center Director Jim Henshaw stated the goal of getting a transport van. That goal has just been met and seniors took their first trip last week to Rogers Auction.
"We had funds in our budget to purchase a van for seniors to take trips in," Henshaw said. "Thanks to a good deal with Greg Greenwood, we now have one."
Henshaw said the van was just delivered last week. It's a new 15-passenger van that will be put to good use over the coming years.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Getting ready to head out on the first Senior Center trip in its new van are members Faye Marciano, Susan Wilhelm, Roselynn Ferranti, Jim Miller, and Bob Smith.
Henshaw said since it is only a 15-passenger vehicle, it won't require a commercial driver's license to operate. The van will actually become part of the township's fleet of vehicles and will have to be driven by township employees, or specific drivers who would be added to the insurance through a rider.
The van purchase was made after members of the center began requesting day trips.
"For now, we need to see how much the van will be used," Henshaw said. "It looks like it will be a lot."
The staff at the senior put out a questionnaire earlier this year to see where the interest was as far as day trips. The surveys came back with museums, zoos, and cultural destinations, but one common request was a trip to Rogers Flea Market in Rogers. In fact, there were so many making that request that the van was scheduled for its debut run to Rogers on Friday.
Other trips, according to Henshaw are being considered, but he did say the van would not be going to any casinos.
"I can't see using the taxpayers' money to transport members to casinos when the casino themselves provide transportation," Henshaw said.
The day trips will be scheduled using a signup sheet. Henshaw said there will be a small fee, possibly $5, to help offset the cost of fuel.
One of the van's drivers, Bruce Ricker, said the seniors will love the van.
"I owned a full-size van before and believe me when I say this one is comfortable and smooth," he said.
When the center got the van, it also received a donation of a small refrigerator that will be installed in the van to carry cold refreshments and snacks.
The van is plain looking right now, but will beg etting decals soon. Henshaw said the center's members are currently voting on a Senior Center logo. Once one has been selected, the decals will be ordered and placed on the van.
One other trip that is on the calendar is a dog show in Malvern. The center has a lot of members who love dogs and for those who don't go on the trip, they will still have some canine companionship. Pheobe, a Leonberger, has become a full-time volunteer at the center. Leonbergers are related to Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Great Pyrenes. They have a distinctive light brown coat with a dark face.
Pheobe is already well known at the center and enjoys the attention she gets from members. Henshaw said she is a good mix since petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure and prolong life.
Pheobe has been at the center since she was eight weeks old. She goes home with Henshaw when the center closes and returns with him the next day.
Henshaw said the improvements at the center are moving along at great speed. With Pheobe doing her part and the new van in place, Henshaw is now looking at the next set of goals, of which one is a second vehicle.
"I would like to get a wheelchair accessible van next," he said.