“I can do that!”

With those four words, Jenepher Hooper surprised even herself when she agreed to help purchase a new van for Fairview Manor residents.

“I am in Almonte often, I have friends there,” says Ms. Hooper, a set designer, prop maker, paper maker and puppet maker who divides her time between Ottawa and St. Andrews, New Brunswick. “I was talking to someone who mentioned that Fairview Manor needed a new van and I just knew I could do it. I surprised myself.”

The new vehicle, which is actually a Crusader bus, arrived in May.

“We are very excited about the new van, thanks to Ms. Hooper’s generosity,” says Mary-Ellen Harris, Assistant Director of Care and Manager of Complex Continuing Care for Almonte General Hospital and Fairview Manor. “Residents look forward to their outings and the van is an exceptional tool for us to have to enhance their quality of life.”

Shown with the new bus are, from left, FVM Recreation Therapist (RT) and driver Kayla Nichols, driver trainer John Montgomery, FVM Residents’ Council President Muriel Currie, top donor Jenepher Hooper, Almonte General Hospital-FVM Foundation Board Chair Al Lunney, RT and driver Ashley Charlebois and RT and driver Sheila Lefebvre. Missing from the photo are RT and driver Julie Rice and AGH-FVM Assistant Director of Care and Manager of Complex Continuing Care Mary-Ellen Harris.

The Manor’s previous van was a 1994 Dodge. “It certainly didn’t owe us anything,” says Ms. Harris. “But the challenge was that it could only carry a limited number of residents, especially people in wheelchairs.”

Realizing a newer, larger vehicle was needed, Fairview Manor put the request on its wish list for capital equipment. Equipment purchases are not eligible for government funding, so the funds to buy the bus, which cost almost $80,000, had to be raised by the community.

That’s where Ms. Hooper came in. “I just happened to be there at the right time,” she says. “For the Manor residents to be able to go outside, it’s freedom for them. It is a good feeling to be able to make that possible.”

Ms. Hooper understands the importance of outings for Manor residents. During a recent stint in rehab while recovering from surgery, she said, “staring at four walls drove me nuts. It was wonderful when we were able to go on outings. I think it is 90 per cent of the healing process.”

Once Ms. Hooper’s $35,000 donation was secured, the Almonte General Hospital-Fairview Manor Foundation raised the balance from the community through its 2012 Christmas fundraising campaign.

“Ms. Hooper always tries to downplay the significance of her gift, but her donation got the ball rolling to make the van purchase possible,” says Foundation Executive Director Gerry Huddleston. “We are very grateful to her and to the other generous donors.”

The new bus can accommodate up to 10 residents—including those with walkers and customized wheelchairs—almost double the capacity of the previous van.

Its seats can fold away to create extra space and it has a mechanical lift with a remote control. Its side doorway also makes it easier for residents to board and leave the van.

“We use the van several times a week,” says Ms. Harris. “It takes residents on all kinds of outings, such as the annual Strawberry Social, to see the fall colours, to go shopping, and go for ice cream.”

The Manor’s Recreation Therapists are obtaining the special licence required to drive a larger vehicle.

“We’ll likely have a contest to name the van,” says Ms. Harris, adding that the new vehicle will also sport the name Fairview Manor.

“It’s such a welcome addition for our residents,” Ms. Harris continues. “It has allowed some residents who hadn’t been able to go out before, to participate in outings.”

That’s music to Ms. Hooper’s ears. “I’m so glad it worked out and it is lovely to be acknowledged,” she says. “It was a great project for me and for Fairview Manor. It’s everyone’s party!”