By BECKY HARRIS
Log Cabin Staff Writer
The last new van put to work by the Faulkner County Council on Developmental Disabilities was a 2001 Dodge that has been driven more than 140,000 miles.
So there were smiles all around on Tuesday when consumers in the Supported Work program of the FCC/DD met their benefactors and were introduced to an eight-seat 2010 Brau Entervan with a wheelchair lift.
Chesapeake Energy contributed $6,500 toward the match required for purchase of the van, and the Arkansas Community Foundation gave $2,500 for the vehicle made possible by the Arkansas Transportation Department.
Robert Zeiler, director of corporate development for Chesapeake Energy and Julie LaRue from the Community Foundation met some of the consumers who will be using the van.
John Looney, an accomplished artist, works at VisionCare. Nicole Hite works at the Wendy’s on Dave Ward Drive. Justin Harlan works at O’Reilly’s auto parts. Lum Kramer works in the cafeteria at the University of Central Arkansas.
James Plaxco, who was a friendly employee at a Conway Walmart for seven years until he moved out of town, is back looking for a job and will be helped by Jeremy Davis, the new employment coordinator at FCC/DD.
FCC/DD executive director Rennia Johnston said the need for a new van was great as the number of miles driven and the number of passenger pick-ups has increased.
“Each year we log more than 50,000 miles and have more than 5,500 passenger pick-ups. Without our service, persons with disabilities would not be able to access vital community resources, such as doctors, grocery stores, banks and — most important to our people — jobs.
“If it weren’t for us, they would be sitting at home,” Johnston said.
The agency also receives funding from the City of Conway, a Community Development Block Grant and the United Way of Central Arkansas. Because of a shortfall in funding from the City this year, Faulkner County stepped in to help continue the work of the agency.
“See? It takes a village,” Johnston said.
“We are fortunate in Conway to have such a caring community and that some members of the City Council have worked for non-profit agencies and know the needs first-hand. We have to trust they will find a solution that will ensure these most vulnerable citizens will continue to receive services.”
Zeiler said Chesapeake Energy was impressed with the work of the agency and willing to help with the match needed to purchase the van.
“We all have to work together,” he said.
(Becky Harris can be reached at 505-1234 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)