Reeve Spotlight: Teller Senior Coalition

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on January 26, 2017 # Quality of Life

Transportation is one of the biggest challenges faced by individuals with limited mobility. So when the Teller County Commissioners decided that senior services would be privatized, two 70-year-old residents came together with other community leaders to organize the Teller Senior Coalition (TSC).

Founded in 1996 by Vivian Giesler and Roberta Winn, TSC provides transportation and other essential services such as daily hot meals, rural meal delivery and other programs for Teller County seniors, low income and disabled residents. Close to several military bases, Teller County is a 559-square-mile, rural Colorado county with more than 2,300 seniors including many retired military and veterans.

“TSC is currently the only ongoing provider of transportation covering all of Teller County,” said TSC executive director Ralph Power. “We have a number of people in our community who need a wheelchair equipped vehicle to use our services. Service is provided for free. We do ask for a donation but no one is turned away.”

Over the years, TSC had acquired and used several vehicles but none of the six-vehicle fleet was wheelchair lift equipped. Through an internet search for wheelchair accessible vehicle funding sources, the organization learned about the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grants.

“In September, we were so grateful to receive a new 12-passenger, wheelchair lift equipped mini bus, funded in part by a Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grant,” said Power. “The $25,000 Reeve Foundation funding was used as the 20 percent match required by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to purchase the vehicle.”

Upon its arrival, the bus was put to immediate use. A grassroots outreach campaign was also initiated to identify additional citizens in the community who are living with a spinal cord injury and/or require a wheelchair lift-equipped vehicle for their transportation.

“The impact on our community was profound and immediate and will continue throughout the life of the vehicle,” said Power. “Our vehicles provide important door-to-door service to individuals in a rural mountainous county where travel is difficult without four-wheel drive. Transportation is primarily for medical appointments, but we also take people for shopping and social activities.”

Thanks to TSC transportation, many people with mobility challenges can remain independent and continue living in their homes. With transportation to social events like congregant meals and exercise classes, many can live a full and active life, reducing feelings of isolation and helplessness.

Dan Nicholson, a Teller County senior citizen advocate and organizer who is living with a spinal cord injury as the result of an automobile accident, enjoys taking the bus to church and sees the new vehicle as “state of the art and a huge plus for our area.”

“The improvement is monumental,” said Power. “Although TSC’s mission is to move people, the comfort of the vehicle is also important. It makes a big difference when you are in the vehicle for a two- to three-hour drive.”

TSC driver Marc Graham explains that the bus rides much smoother for the wheelchair passengers than the 14-year-old mini bus it replaced.

“It is just such a blessing for the people who need it,” said Graham. “I have seen an increase in the client satisfaction with service of the new bus. with clients describing increased comfort and security and a quieter ride.”

Roger Call, administrator at Forest Ridge Senior Living, is also excited about the vehicle for his community. “The addition of the new TSC wheelchair transit has had a remarkable impact for our service to our residents here at Forest Ridge. Now and going forward, we will be able to ensure transportation services to any and all of our residents, regardless of their mobility challenges, to a variety of destinations.

We are grateful for the generosity of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for helping TSC to achieve their goal of purchasing this vehicle.”

Power agrees.

“We are now helping a lot of people get around who weren’t able to before,” said Power. “The project was a long time in coming to fruition and on behalf of myself, staff, board and our clients, I would like to thank the Reeve Foundation for their patience in working with us through this project.”