Reconnecting the community

Written on 05/18/2024
Patrick Munsey

CAM celebrating 31 years by fundraising for a new van

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People without transportation face a nearly insurmountable barrier. It is difficult to maintain a job, shop for groceries, or get to necessary appointments without it. And the City of Kokomo’s trolley system can only do so much.

A few years ago, the nonprofit community attempted to address the need, and Howard County Connect was born. Coordinated Assistance Ministries operates the service, which provides free transportation to any Howard County resident seven days a week.

However, the wheelchair-accessible van used by the organization recently traveled its last mile. According to CAM executive director Dennine Smith, Howard County Connect is severely hampered by the loss.

“We had some other issues going on with that old vehicle, and actually, we've sold it,” said Smith. “So now, our challenge is to raise funds to replace it with a newer vehicle that hopefully has fewer problems.”

One of the great attractions of Howard County Connect is its hours of operation. Transportation is available from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. It not only supplements the city’s trolley system, it operates during the hours the trolley doesn’t. And it travels anywhere in Howard County.

“Over the previous three months, we averaged about 334 transports a month,” said Smith. “That’s pretty typical to have over 300 transports a month. Being able to offer this service to people, not just in the Kokomo city limits, but also outside of Kokomo across the entire county, really helps a lot of folks get to work, get to the grocery store, get to church. It's really an important service.”

Though transportation is still being offered despite the loss of the van, its absence deprives a portion of the community of the needed service. There are no other options for wheelchair-accessible transportation outside of the trolley system until Howard County Connect acquires a new van.

Therefore, in conjunction with CAM’s 31st anniversary, the organization is holding a fund drive to purchase a new van. The goal is to raise $60,000.

“Since we’ve been here 31 years, we're asking folks to give a gift of $31, $310, or $3,100,” said Smith. “You can keep adding zeros if you like. But this is what we're asking for. You can be a part of celebrating our anniversary, but also be a blessing to our community.”

Howard County Connect has received support already from several local businesses and individuals, and it recently was awarded a grant from the United Way Serving Howard and Tipton Counties to help underwrite the cost of the van. But more help is needed.

The campaign officially kicked off May 1, but on CAM’s anniversary, Sunday, May 19, the organization is focusing on fundraising. Donations to the vehicle fund can be made anytime via Givelify or PayPal by visiting Donors also can mail their gifts to CAM at P.O. Box 523, Kokomo, IN 46903.

To schedule a ride with Howard County Connect, call 765-452-8963.