Van offers greater mobility for rehab patients
High school automotive students repair, donate vehicle with wheelchair lift
Patients at Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital in Rockville will find getting out a little easier now, thanks to the handiwork of Damascus and Thomas Edison high school automotive technology students.
As part of their Automotive Trade Foundation classes, the students repaired and reconditioned a minivan with a hydraulic wheelchair lift and donated it to the hospital at a ceremony Thursday in the Damascus High School automotive garage.
"We literally danced when we heard we were getting our own van," said Lisa Mathews, a recreational therapist at Adventist Rehabilitation who will use the van to drive patients who need transportation. "It makes life a lot easier for us."
Before receiving the van, either she or Mary Kate Madden, another recreational therapist, had to call a cab and pay full fare if patients needed to go out into the world to learn life skills, Mathews said.
"We'll be using this van daily," said Doris Reinhart, vice president and administrator at Adventist. "It will take patients to the grocery store or the movies so they can learn the skills they need so they can eventually return home."
Ingrid Black, director of rehabilitation services, said the hospital normally spends "tens of thousands of dollars" every year on taxi fares. Buying a specially outfitted van would have cost more than $50,000, she said.
The van needed some work in the Damascus High School automotive shop. Teacher Raul Ortiz said the radiator needed to be flushed several times, but otherwise only minor adjustments were needed.
"We gave it a tune up, got it ready so it will pass inspection, new brakes," Ortiz said.
Students at Thomas Edison High School of Technology in Wheaton completed the auto body and paint work on the van.
The wheelchair lift had already been installed before it was donated to the student foundation, Judyn A. Rengers, the foundation's community outreach specialist, said.
The van was donated by Christine Thompson, who works at Elkridge Auto Auction.
Each year, the foundation donates one vehicle to a Montgomery County nonprofit organization or an individual in need of van with a wheelchair lift, Rengers said. This year 12 organizations applied for the vehicle donation, a number higher than normal.
"My speculation is that it reflects the economy," she said.
The Automotive Trade Foundation Board of Directors decides who will receive the vehicle.
The foundation is a nonprofit organization created cooperatively by Montgomery County Public Schools and the business community to provide hands-on training for high school students wishing to earn automotive mechanic certification.
Damascus senior Shawn Nugent, junior Zach Kimble and junior Shannon School were chosen to speak at the donation ceremony, representing their classmates who worked on the van.
Reinhart lauded the Automotive Trade Foundation program, saying she and the Adventist administrators were "so impressed that this program exists."
"It provides skills, but also teaches these students to provide community service," she said.