Lawrence M. Walsh
JOLIET -- Sunny Hill Nursing Home residents, staff and members of the Friends of Sunny Hill gathered in the lobby, anxiously awaiting the arrival of residents’ new ride.
After nearly a year of fund-raising, the 2018 Ford arrived April 4 to replace the aging bus that, like the one before it, had been purchased by The Friends of Sunny Hill, Inc.
“The Friends of Sunny Hill provides many of the ‘extras’ that the county budget doesn’t allow for,” said County Executive Larry Walsh, whose office oversees the county-owned nursing home. “The residents are fortunate to have this dedicated group of volunteers.”
The new bus replaces a 2004 model that carried four wheelchairs and eight people in regular seats, said Roger Bentley, bus driver. The new one holds two additional wheelchairs.
“Which we need,” said Administrator Becky Haldorson, “because most of our residents are in wheelchairs.”
Bentley says depending upon the weather the bus is in operation three to four days a week, taking residents out to lunch, shopping, concerts and other local trips, keeping them in touch with the area they helped build throughout their lifetimes.
“This one has a better heating system so that will help in the winter,” Haldorson said, explaining that it has more vents in the back.
Karen Sorbero, former Sunny Hill Administrator who founded The Friends of Sunny Hill to raise funds for the first new bus, spearheaded the fund drive. She said the bus was purchased from Midwest Transit in Kankakee/Bourbonnais for $73,147 with the trade-in. Of that, $42,500 was raised during the Ride to Freedom campaign. The rest came from the Friends’ budget.
As the staff passed out bus-shaped stress balls, chip clips and back scratchers provided by Midwest Transit, other staff members distributed plastic cups with sparkling grape juice for a toast to safe travels.
Residents who wished to be on the first ride – around the Sunny Hill and Health Department campus – were asked to sign up for a lottery. All of the residents who attended the reception put their names in for the April 6 ride.
The bus will be on display at the County Office Building May 17 when residents attend the regularly scheduled County Board meeting to present the title and keys to the county.
Anyone who still would like to help, may send a check to The Friends of Sunny Hill, Inc., at Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County, 421 Doris Ave., Joliet, 60433.