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Windham van was a long time coming

By ELIZABETH MACAULEY

Chronicle Staff Writer

WILLIMANTIC — The seniors of Windham are officially mobile and ready to hit the road.

The Windham Senior Center unveiled its brand-new van to seniors Thursday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Our last van was around 10 years old,” said Mary DeMarco, human services director for the Windham Senior Center. “It was old, had a lot of mileage and wasn’t safe to drive out of town so we were sort of grounded.”

“The frame was rotting and rusted in the old van,” said Amanda Sherman, administrative assistant at the Windham Senior Center. “It was really becoming a safety concern.”

According to DeMarco, the van was taken off the road last spring.

“We’ve been waiting since August for this van,” DeMarco said. “It kept getting delayed, which was disheartening because the seniors look forward to trips so much.”

At the senior center, the van is considered their New Year’s gift.

“It was paid for with town funds,” DeMarco said. “The public works department made the purchase and put the order in.”

According to Kathy Worcester, administrative assistant for the Windham Public Works Department, the van cost roughly $60,000.

“It doesn’t rattle like the last van,” DeMarco said. “We had to stuff pool noodles into the wheelchair lift of the last van because it rattled so much.”

The new van also has surround sound speakers and a backup camera, DeMarco said.

For Kate Cox, the senior center’s activities coordinator, the new ride is both exciting and meaningful for the seniors because a lot of them don’t own a car and therefore can’t go on trips without the van.

“If you don’t drive, you don’t get to go,” said senior Shirley Blomberg of Willimantic. “So it’s exciting to be able to go on trips again.”

According to DeMarco, past senior trips have included the governor’s mansion in Hartford, Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford and out-of-town restaurants.

“It’s nice to get to eat with someone other than ourselves,” Blomberg said.

Seniors wasted no time requesting trips and destinations while at the ribbon-cutting.

The No. 1 request seniors have is to be taken to the casino, Cox said.

“I’m working on the February calendar and I’m currently taking suggestions,” Cox said. “They already requested to go to Mystic Village today.”

For DeMarco, the van is important because it gives seniors an opportunity to get out and see new places.

“I think we take being able to drive for granted and don’t realize its value until we can’t anymore,” DeMarco said.

DeMarco said a lot of seniors don’t get out and therefore haven’t seen what’s new around the community, like the bustling commerce of Storrs Center.

“The van is a great thing for them,” DeMarco said. “It’s nice, smells new and is really exciting.”

For more information, call the Windham Senior Center at 860-423-4524.

 

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