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Monday, March 17, 2008

For many Lakeland residents, aging van is the only option

By Andrea Budde/Contributor

For residents of Lakeland Health Care Center, the wheelchair-accessible van is the only way they can leave and get out into the community.

But after 12 years, the van's best days are behind it.

So on Monday, March 17th, the Lakeland Health Care Center in Elkhorn will be holding a luncheon fund-raiser in an effort to raise money for a new wheelchair-accessible van.

Residents and staff at LHCC are inviting the community to attend their Reuben sandwich and baked potato bar lunch. This event will be the kick-off of their estimated two-year saving period for their new van.

"We needed to start our fund-raising somewhere, so why not St. Paddy's Day?" Volunteer Coordinator Colleen Lesniak said, as the luncheon menu will reflect two Irish culinary favorites.

The luncheon is being held at the Lakeland Health Care Center from 10:45 a.m. -1:30 p.m. Staff is inviting residents and their families, civic personnel and the community at large to attend the fund-raiser.

Lunch is $4 per plate and residents will be selling cookies, three for $1.

The residents at the Lakeland Heath Care Center and the Resident Council have put together fundraising efforts of their own. In the lobby of LHCC and at past book fairs, the residents have been selling canvas tote bags. Not only is it a way for them to raise money for their new van, it is a way for buyers to "be more green," Lesniak said. The residents hope to sell their bags, which run $6 each, in local grocery stores in the near future.

The van that the Lakeland Health Center currently utilizes is 12 years old and was paid for with fund-raising money. The County Highway Department has been in charge of maintaining the van thus far, but the chairlift will soon need replacing.

"Chairlifts usually have a life expectancy of around 10 years," Lesniak said.

The chairlift is still safe, Lesniak said, but as the fund-raising efforts are expected to last about two years, they would like to have a new van before the old one breaks.

The van is currently used two to three times a week, in which LHCC residents are taken places such as shopping, fishing, out for meals, the Senior Olympics, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater day for seniors and to Brewers games.

"(The van is a way to) get out into the community," resident Phyllis Bukelich said.

Each month the Residents Council meets to decide on where the van will go. The van is also utilized to take residents to and from doctors' appointments when local transportation cannot.

"It is a connection to the community for residents who have lost connection," Respiratory Therapist Lynn Kasper said. "They don't feel like they are stuck here. Some (residents) even have more contact with the community than before they came to (LHCC)."

The van has also been a way for residents' families to meet with them outside of the center, as most of the families' vehicles are not able to accommodate wheelchairs.

"I love it here, but it feels good to get out with other normal people," resident Dana Van Der Wielen said.

About 120 people are expected to be at the luncheon, Lesniak said. For those wishing to donate but not attend lunch, a "Pot-O-Gold" will be set out in which cash donations will be accepted.

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