By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 12/13/19
Lena Faye Stewart, 65, of Staunton loves going to dollar stores to buy make-up, but she can’t drive herself.
Instead, she rides the Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham vans when she comes to the center located at the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center in Harrisonburg.
“When they say where do you want to go, I say Dollar General,” she said with a laugh.
And on Thursday, the local Arc celebrated the arrival of its newest vehicles with a ribbon cutting for the pair of eight-passenger 2019 Ford Transit-350s the nonprofit received in November.
The vans were purchased primarily with grant money administered by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, said Heather Denman, executive director of the Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham.
Last year, the Arc applied for the 5310 program grant, which provided 80% of the cost for the vehicles, she said.
“The purpose of these grants is to ensure that localities are able to provide transport for the elderly and people with disabilities, and that includes developmental disabilities — which is who we serve,” Denman said.
The other 20% of the cost had to be raised by the Arc, and came from sources such as City of Harrisonburg Community Development Block Grants.
The grant funding actually comes from federal dollars, said Neil Sherman, the director of statewide transit programs for the Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
“It is a competitive program,” he said.
Providing transportation opportunities for those who may not be able to take public transpiration is an important part of why the program exists, Sherman said.
“A lot of people with developmental disabilities would be isolated in their homes, unable to get to services they need — especially if their parents aren’t home,” Denman said.
“It’s a real challenge,” she said. “We didn’t start out to be in the transportation business, but we found out very quickly, historically, we needed to provide transportation for people to be able to access the services they need.” The vans will also help bring people to doctor appointments and out to buy toiletries.
Other places the Arc will bring clients include Walmart, where they can
shop and learn about potential employment opportunities, and Ashbury United Methodist Church, where they help organize books and fold flyers.
Denman said getting clients outside of the center and around the city is about “creating an awareness that there’s a place for them in the community.”
“It’s our goal that people with developmental disabilities are able to work,” Denman said.
The Arc now has a dozen vehicles and Denman said the organization is already looking at applying for another grant to acquire a five-person van next year.
“When we were a center-based program, we did about 12,000 miles annually — picking people up, taking them home,” Denman said. “This year we are projecting we will have traveled 106,000 miles, so most of that travel is in providing access to the community for the individuals we serve.”
And Stewart is one of those people.
She gets rides to various places, including her beloved dollar stores, which allows her to interact with more people and see more of the city — both things she said she loved doing.