Partnership increases access to fresh food, exercise facility  

CareVan General Public Transportation is helping riders increase their access to fresh food and exercise facilities thanks to a partnership with Red Iron Activity Center and the Columbus Farmers Market.   

The partnership is part of the Access to Community Recreational Facilities project, as part of Pathways to a Healthy Kansas, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas initiative (BCBSKS). Other community agencies including Columbus Recreation Commission and the Partnership for all Cherokee County Children (PACCC) also collaborated to improve the lives in the community through healthy living initiatives.   

The program benefits low-income individuals and families, senior citizens and low-income senior citizens, and persons with disabilities, although anyone is able to use CareVan services at no cost. According to Kansas Health Matters, Cherokee County has more adults living in poverty than most other counties in the state. More than 40 percent of county residents have high blood pressure, much higher than most of the state. Nearly 11 percent of children in Cherokee County have a disability and slightly over 46 percent of adults over the age of 65 have a disability, both of which are trending upwards.  

Dee Yount, transportation program manager for Building Health Inc., a subsidiary of CHC-SEK, and Crossland Construction Community Relations Associate, Liz Simpson, determined the best days and times for CareVan to be active in Columbus, and have begun marketing this additional transportation service, connecting people with healthy food, physical fitness, and positive socialization opportunities.  

“We are fortunate to be able to offer transportation options in Southeast Kansas, and we appreciate the support we are receiving in Columbus,” Yount said. “The riders very much appreciate the freedom of safe and reliable transportation.”   

This new partnership promotes access to and from the following locations: Red Iron Activity Center; Central Apartments; Countryside Acres Housing; Medical Lodges; Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas; Evans Drug; Cherokee County Health Department; Park Place Seniors; Apple Market; Columbus Farmers Market; Reeves City Park; Apple Glen Apartments, and Cherry Creek Townhouses. Should a rider need transportation to a location not listed, they can call the CareVan dispatch to schedule their ride.  

This additional service is available from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays on a first come, first served basis, and rides can be scheduled by calling CareVan dispatch number at 833-228-7433. If someone needs a ride outside of that time frame, they can call the dispatcher between 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday.  

Riders who need additional support when traveling will receive help from trained drivers who will escort riders with door-to-door service.   

“Dispatch and drivers are trained to provide more than just safe transportation; we focus on positive social interactions and a sense of community with each ride,” Yount said.  

Although CareVan provides rides to anyone in need of transportation services, Yount reminds potential riders that unlike an on-demand taxi service, reservations must be made ahead of time.  CareVan is funded, in part, by the KDOT Public Transportation Program.  

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