Goin’ mobile: Cold Lake First Nations targets purchase of mobility bus for elders

Wheelchair accessible vehicle would enhance quality of life in Alberta community

Think of that quick 10-minute trip to the grocery store for milk and bananas.

Or that regular run to the dry cleaner’s. Or your much-anticipated weekly gathering for coffee with the old gang.

Now, imagine that mobility, that freedom, gone in the blink of an eye.

“We have one lady here in a wheelchair who basically hasn’t left her home in three years,” says Alice Gilroy, elders and special needs program manager with the Cold Lake First Nations (CLFNS) near Cold Lake, Alberta.

“She can’t go to her dental appointments, or go anywhere else, because we have no wheelchair accessible vehicle,” adds Gilroy. “She needs a lot of help getting in and out of her wheelchair. We only have one or two people in the community that have taken her someplace in the past three years—and one was to her brother’s funeral.”

Up until now, it’s been Gilroy and her trusty old Jeep that’s ferried homebound CLFNS elders to medical appointments, grocery shops, banking trips and the like.

In recent months, though, CLFNS has begun a fundraising campaign to purchase of an $88,000 mobility bus—with room for six passengers, storage for three wheelchairs, and great potential for improving quality of life among elders.

“With some of our clients, I need two people to help load and two people to help unload. There are liability issues,” says Gilroy. “A mobility bus would be so great, because even if people wanted to go for coffee, you push them up the ramp, buckle them in, and you’re on your way.”

Enbridge is committed to improving quality of life in the communities where we work and live. In 2017, we invested more than $5.2 million in community-sustaining initiatives across Alberta, while our employee-fueled 2017 United Way campaigns in Edmonton and Calgary raised $1.58 million and $1.72 million, respectively.

In recent weeks, Enbridge contributed $10,000 toward the purchase of a CLFNS mobility bus. In recent months, we’ve also donated to mobility bus initiatives in Kerrobert, SK and Heart Lake First Nation, AB (near Lac La Biche).

Gilroy expects that the 2018 edition of the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage, coming up in late July west of Edmonton, will be the last edition of logistical difficulties for the CLFNS contingent’s annual trek.

“We take the nations’ 20-passenger bus, and I follow in my own vehicle with all the wheelchairs,” she says. “We have elders who’ve been going for the past 50, 60 years. They see friends and relatives from Inuvik, from Manitoba, from Saskatchewan.

“It’s one of the most important times of the year for us. Next year we’ll be riding in style.”