After Diane Haines’ husband, Steven, passed away last July, she knew she wanted to donate his handicapped-accessible van to someone who could use it.
As it turns out, many someones will benefit.
Haines donated the van to Sunflower Diversified Services, a non-profit agency that serves people with developmental disabilities and delays in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.
“Sunflower supports people in wheelchairs all the time,” Haines said. “I wanted the van to be available to those who truly need it.”
The Ellinwood woman is an advanced practice registered nurse at Ellinwood District Hospital and Great Bend Regional Hospital. She has cared for countless patients for more than four decades, including Sunflower clients.
This medical background helped her decide to choose Sunflower.
“Sunflower is very important to people with disabilities in our local communities,” Haines commented. “It does things that other agencies won’t do. In the process, Sunflower clients develop a sense of pride and individualism.
“I have learned quite a bit about Sunflower over the years because of my job and my friendship with Brandi Demel who works there. It is always good to know that Sunflower is here even for people with severe disabilities.”
Demel, R.N., said the van is a “very special gift that came from Diane’s heart. It means a lot to all of us at Sunflower.
“The van will help us tremendously as we transport clients to community events and medical appointments. It will also ease the strain on our General Public Transportation (GPT) system’s busy schedule.”
Sarah Krom, Sunflower director of Adult Services, said the 2001 Ford Econoline E150 van has 111,182 miles on it.
“It has been well taken care of,” Krom noted. “With this generous donation, we can better accommodate requests from Sunflower’s adult clients, and even children who receive our case-management services. They can now have transportation to destinations that previously were unavailable.”
She explained that Sunflower has had requests for transportation outside of Sunflower’s GPT service area, such as Wichita, Hutchinson, Hays, Manhattan, Salina, Dodge City and Kansas City.
“This van is equipped with an electric ramp so we can easily help with boarding and disembarking,” Krom said. “Since it is a full-size Econoline, there is ample room for the driver and additional passengers.
“We cannot emphasize enough that transportation is the building block that allows folks to fully access their communities and the rest of the state.”
Jon Prescott, Sunflower’s executive director, said Haines should be commended for her thoughtfulness. “Diane has made our year even more special this Christmas season by donating this great van,” Prescott said. “Our clients and staff have been especially blessed by her Christmas spirit.”
Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults with delays and disabilities. It is in its 51st year.