SAVANNAH, GA. (WSAV) – EmployAbility calls their fleet of white vans a lifeline. They are used daily because they are specifically designed to transport people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
On a typical day, the non-profit dedicates its time to training people with special needs and preparing them for work at a job or with another non-profit like Meals on Wheels. Regardless of an individual’s path, the main goal is to integrate them into the community.
Van drivers often pick up people directly at their homes and take them to EmployAbility’s office on Eisenhower Drive. It’s an essential service for people in families who do not have a safe means of transportation.
Last week though, employees say police found one of those vans miles away from where it should have been. A group of people apparently cut the lock and took the van for a joyride.
“I thought it was a bad joke,” said Laura Lane McKinnon, a director at EmployAbility.
For McKinnon, the joke got worse when she realized the van was beyond repair. The lights were smashed, the frame was damaged and the ignition was broken.
“We don’t have any extra vehicles so when one is damaged like this or has to be repaired, it causes a ripple effect,” said Ken Boyd, EmployAbility’s executive director.
Employees say that means they are stretched thin in nearly every aspect of their work.
“These folks already have a lot of challenges and they’ve been marginalized or overlooked,” said McKinnon. “So to have a setback where they can’t go out and show people what they’re capable of, it’s really sad to see.”
McKinnon says insurance will not cover the entire cost of a new van, which can run from $25-35,000. EmployAbility is now asking the community for help.
“These are folks who take extra effort to go places and to do things. To think that they have to face an additional hurdle? It’s heartbreaking,” said McKinnon.