“The Van” is keeping Rooks County residents on the move, while enabling many to live as independently as possible. “The Van” is what the staff at Rooks County Transportation Service and their loyal riders call the service, but it’s actually more than one van and much more than just transportation.
Johnna Lambert is the director of Rooks County Transportation Service and Casey Arnold is the main contact for scheduling “The Van”. Lambert explained that the service is funded by grants from the Kansas Department of Transportation, the United States Department of Transportation as well as contributions from Rooks County and every town in the county. Fares are by donation only with a suggested donation of five dollars for transport to a special event.
While 75 percent of rides are medically related, “The Van” also takes riders to shopping, the hairdresser and even cultural events. One rider relies on the service to attend college courses at Fort Hays State University. Even pets can get a ride as long as they are restrained and under control. “The Van” is available for Rooks County residents and will deliver riders to stops in Phillips, Osborne, Graham and Ellis counties.
Doris Casey is a Plainville resident who’s been using “The Van” since the service began. This proudly independent woman knew she had to give up driving but still wanted to maintain her active lifestyle. Not wanting to impose on family or friends to help her get around, Doris found out about the service and immediately became a huge fan. “It’s so convenient,” says Doris. “As soon as I call Casey (Arnold) it’s all arranged. I have no worry, all I do is check my calendar, and I know what time they’re going to pick me up and what time I’ll be home. And the drivers are so nice. They really care about assisting you.”
Lambert noted the feeling of safety and comradery that “The Van” riders share, “When it’s dark, late or the weather is bad with rain and wind, our riders have no stress. They can visit and laugh while the drivers do the work.”
Lambert and Arnold are quick to credit the dedication, compassion and training of the three drivers. Speaking about Jeannie Rolfe, Jerry Keyes and Robin Bailey, Arnold said, “The service just wouldn’t work without the drivers.” Lambert added, “They’re the face of “The Van” and the soul of the service. They care a great deal.”
There are a few things that new riders can do to help make the system run smoothly. Call at least 24 hours in advance for a ride. When making a reservation, be sure to mention any special needs such as a lift for a wheelchair. Have patience as the demand for transportation service is great. Medical transport takes precedence when scheduling routes, so if a trip is for groceries, the rider might have to wait a bit. Finally, if you need to cancel a scheduled ride, please call and cancel or reschedule.
“If I didn’t have this service I doubt if I would be able to stay in my home. The drivers are so nice and really good about assisting you. I encourage everyone who needs it to call for this service,” said Casey.
“The Van” runs Monday through Friday from 8a.m. to 5p.m. unless road conditions are unsafe. Riders can call the Rooks County Health Center main line at 785-434-4553 and ask to be connected to Transportation.