Wadena, Saskatchewan — Connie Anderson hadn’t been living in Wadena, Saskatchewan, very long when the person trying to get a community handi-van going approached her to be the treasurer of the committee. They insisted Anderson get involved since they’d heard she was responsible for getting a van in another town while living there.
“In Rose Valley, I used to live across from a care home, and I’d see one of the workers struggling to get some elderly ladies in her tiny car to take them around town,” says Anderson. “It wasn’t right, so I went to the town council to ask for help. They said they’d support me and match my fundraising efforts.”
Twenty years later, and Anderson still helps keep the Wadena “Wheeler” Handi-Van running. The 10-passenger van transports seniors and those with disabilities within Wadena and to surrounding areas. The Town of Wadena owns the van, and a non-profit organization called the Wadena Van Corp runs the day-to-day operations.
“This is my last year, and it’s been a trying year too. Our hands were tied because we couldn’t give rides due to COVID. I felt so bad for some of those people.”
Unfortunately, the committee could not do their usual farmer’s market lunches and tea and bake sales due to COVID-19, so Anderson reached out to local farmers Brad and Wanda Jones for help. She asked them to nominate the Wadena Van Committee for Canada’s Farmers Grow Communities Program, and the Joneses were happy to help.
“Connie has been on the Van Committee for many years and, along with her partner, has been driving the van and helping people get where they need to go,” says Brad Jones. “The van takes a lot of stress away from families who live away but whose parents require assistance to get to appointments.”
The van is parked in a garage that needs a renovation after the garage door came off its hinges a few winters ago due to frost. Anderson says they have been working steadily to fix the garage while also raising money for the usual: fuel, paying the driver and maintenance on the van. The $2,500 Bayer Fund grant will help with all of it.
In 2017, the Saskatchewan Transportation Service (STC) stopped running bus service, and many people in rural Saskatchewan had limited mobility. The Wadena Van Corporation has filled that gap ever since the bus stopped running. Anderson says it’s hard to say how many people the van helps, but the van took several trips daily before the pandemic.
“Seniors used to be able to take the bus to appointments in Yorkton in the morning and return in the evening the same day. Once the STC was eliminated, the need for this van increased,” says Jones. “This has provided a much-needed service to our rural community. Funding like this grant is instrumental in keeping this non-profit operational.”