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Dealer donates van to seniors agency

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A Taylorsville auto dealership has donated a van to help get senior citizens to doctor appointments and grocery stores, and to give them transportation options for other errands.

Carver Toyota awarded the vehicle to Johnson County Senior Services as part of Toyota’s national 100 Cars for Good contest. People voted online for one of several groups vying to win a new vehicle.

“It’s an honor to represent Toyota and give back to a group in need of a vehicle like this,” said Bob Piehl, general manager at Carver Toyota. “It’s heartwarming around this time of year.”

Though the agency had originally been told the van would take about five months to arrive after winning the contest in October, Toyota wanted to deliver the van before Christmas.

The van was presented to the agency this week, along with a donation of $1,000, which will cover fuel costs for round trips for 25 seniors.

Johnson County Senior Services provides free rides, meals and medical equipment to senior citizens. The van will let the agency have three to four wheelchair-accessible vehicles out every day, Senior Services executive director Kimberly Smith said.

The agency relies on donations and grants to fund fuel costs and hopes to bring in more so it can put all of their vehicles — including two more cars purchased with grant money that will arrive next year — on the road so more seniors can get rides, Smith said.

Each vehicle can transport about 10 seniors per day, and the agency provides 10,000 free rides each year.

Delivery of the van this early was an unexpected blessing just as another car — which was not wheelchair-accessible — was breaking down, Smith said.

The new van will replace the old one, be safer for drivers to use and is more fuel efficient, which saves money for the agency, she said.

“It’s a hug from heaven,” she said.

The van has a large back area where wheelchairs can be folded and stored. By pushing a button, one of the seats turns towards the car door and lowers to the ground, so a senior has only to step up a few inches and get into the seat before it brings them back up into the van.

By using this van rather than the old car, drivers can now transport up to three seniors at once, including someone who uses a wheelchair, Smith said.

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