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The wait is over for clients and volunteers who have been looking forward to the arrival of Interfaith Ozaukee’s new wheelchair-accessible van.

The modified Dodge Caravan is ready to take seniors who use wheelchairs to their appointments all around – and in some cases beyond – Ozaukee County. Volunteers are being trained in how to use the van and clients are signing up for rides in it.

“It’s a game changer,” said Maureen Squire, executive director for Interfaith Caregivers of Ozaukee County. “Now we are equipped to meet the transportation needs of even more of the aging population in our county.”

Interfaith Ozaukee volunteers pick clients up at their homes and drive them to and from appointments.

“Interfaith Ozaukee is the primary door-through-door service provider for seniors in the county,” said Squire. “We help clients every step of the way.”

Previously, volunteers used their own cars exclusively. Through grants and support from several community partners, Interfaith Ozaukee acquired its first wheelchair-accessible van, with another on the way.

But with the new opportunities comes an expanded need for volunteers, Squire said.

“The elderly population is increasing significantly,” Squire said. “So, too, is the need for volunteers. We are averaging seven new clients who require our assistance for every one new volunteer. We hope to attract even more volunteers who might feel more comfortable driving an Interfaith Ozaukee van than their own car.”

That message is spelled out on the signage on the new van: “Got an hour? Give an hour.”

If you do have an hour – or more – to give, Interfaith Ozaukee is eager to hear from you.

“You can absolutely volunteer on your terms,” Squire said. “From a few hours a month to several hours a week, we appreciate any amount of time someone can give.”

Volunteers say the rewards are many.

“It’s fascinating to find out about people, to talk with them and to make their lives just a little bit easier,” said Marty Hake, who has volunteered with Interfaith Ozaukee since retiring from teaching in 2014. She was one of the first to sign up for van training.

“It will open up new possibilities for so many people,” Hake said.

For more information, visit the Interfaith Ozaukee website at www.interfaithozaukee.org. If you have time to volunteer or are in need of transportation, call 262-376-5362.

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