Putnam Aging receives new wheels

BUFFALO, W.Va. — Elderly and shut-in individuals in Putnam County who depend on the Putnam Aging program for rides will get a boost from a donation to the program.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia and West Virginia AARP handed over the keys to a 2021 Toyota Sienna van to Putnam Aging Director Jenni Sutherland Wednesday.

“We have not received a new vehicle in several years. Many of our vehicles are over 100,000 miles, they are frequently in the shop for maintenance, and we’re having to cancel people’s appointments because we go to start the van in the morning and it doesn’t start,” Sutherland said.

The donated automobile will become part of the six vans already in the organization’s fleet, but one is in and out of the shop regularly and another has been broken down for two years. According to Sutherland, two of the remaining four vans are dedicated to dialysis and cancer treatment patients.

“This vehicle is really our star vehicle now to help us get to these folks,” she said.

The service provided by Putnam Aging is critical since Putnam County has no public bus system or regular taxi services.

“Folks that don’t drive themselves are often stranded at home and unable to access essential items, medicine, or vaccinations,” she explained.

The new van is also a hybrid vehicle which Sutherland said will be a huge boost to their budget.

“We are seeing a tremendous savings in gasoline. We see lots of hybrids in our future. Our fuel costs are insane with some of our large, outdated vans,” she explained.

“Through mobility we can improve access to vaccines and enable organizations to reach hundreds of thousands of people across the country,” said Barry Pearson, general manager of administration at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia. “By collaborating with AARP and additional community partners, we’re able to extend resources to organizations that have an intricate knowledge of the communities’ specific needs, coming together to make the strongest impact.”

“AARP is proud of the role we have played in helping older Americans navigate the health and economic challenges of this pandemic,” said Gaylene Miller, AARP West Virginia State Director. “Strong community-based service providers like Putnam Aging are critical to supporting older West Virginians living at home, and the family caregivers helping them to remain there. This collaboration with Toyota will make an important difference in these efforts.”