Brand new vans first-ever for Sunshine Industries

Sean C. Morgan

For the first time in its history, Sunshine Industries has been able to purchase brand new vans.

That’s largely thanks to the ongoing support of the community, Executive Director Brittany Donnell said last week.

In the past, Sunshine has always looked for the best used vehicles it could find and maintained them the best it could, said staff member Jon Pelcher. The brand new vans will provide longer-term reliability and improve accessibility for the clients of Sunshine Industries, which serves developmentally disabled persons.

The organization provides a variety of services including employment and social activities for persons with a wide variety of disabilities. The nonprofit provides in-house employment as well as helping place clients at mainstream businesses. It serves clients from Sweet Home and Linn County.

Sunshine purchased two 2018 Ford 350 Transit Vans for approximately $120,000. One has room for up to two clients in wheelchairs, with five additional passengers. In a single-wheelchair configuration, it can carry seven additional passengers. The second van can carry a single wheelchair with seven passengers.

The vans are used to pick up clients from their homes; transport for work; and transport for social activities in the community, such as shopping, bowling or seeing movies.

“It’s going to help us do community inclusions,” Pelcher said. It used to take four vans to carry four clients in wheelchairs. The vans cut the required number of vans required for any trip by one.

That increases the capacity for wheelchairs, reducing the need for wheelchair-bound clients to take turns, Donnell said.

“It definitely reaches our goal to have our services out in the community” rather than keeping clients at the facility, something that recent state regulations requires centers like Sunshine to do.

The new doors are wider, helping improve vehicle accessibility for clients with mobility issues who are not necessarily in wheelchairs, Pelcher said.

The new vans will require less maintenance, he said, and they’ll be able to go farther without worrying about the vehicles.

“It has 127 miles on it, not thousand,” Donnell said of one of the new vans.

Now Sunshine has “new vehicles that work exactly for our needs,” Pelcher said.

“I do want to give a shout-out to Umpqua Bank,” Donnell said. The bank was able to secure financing at “a very favorable interest rate” and then maintain that rate when the purchase became delayed.

“The support of the community has led to the success of Sunshine Industries,” Donnell said. The community has shown up for numerous fund-raising events over the years, enabling Sunshine to make improvements, including construction of a new shop building.

The most recent donations will fund a wraparound driveway with improved loading and unloading for clients, who will no longer need to cross the driveway, Donnell said. Sunshine’s most recent spaghetti feed raised more than $20,000, which will fund the entire project.

That project will get going in late summer or early fall, Donnell said. Mike Melcher has already donated his time and equipment for site prep.

Sunshine also recently made its final payment for its property, located at 1333 Clark Mill Road.

The new vans provide an opportunity to raise funds as well, Donnell said, and Sunshine is offering advertising space on the buses. The organization is currently getting bids for graphic wraps.