For more than 30 years, Coon Rapids Chrysler Jeep and Lincoln Mercury has donated a van for use by Coon Rapids Senior Services.
The newest, a 2012 Dodge Jeep Ram seven-passenger cargo van, was formally presented Oct. 3 in a ceremony at the Coon Rapids Senior Center.
On hand were Bruce Kittilstved, Coon Rapids Chrysler Jeep and Lincoln Mercury general manager, and Jerry Greenwood, who has spent 30 years with the dealership including 15 years as service manager, as well as Councilmember Paul Johnson representing the Coon Rapids City Council.
The council at its Oct. 1 meeting formally accepted the donation of the new van and “acknowledged the vital role and valuable community service that Coon Rapids Senior Services has with Coon Rapids Chrysler Jeep and Lincoln Mercury.”
The new van replaces a previously-donated van by the dealership which had 106,000 miles on it. That was a 2005 Dodge Caravan.
The 2012 Dodge Ram Jeep has a retail value of more than $20,000, according to Kittilstved.
The donation program was started by the late Grant McKay, who when he owned Coon Rapids Chrysler Plymouth and was known to give customers the keys to a new car when they brought in their vehicles for service and did not have transportation, said Kittilstvedt, who has worked for Chrysler dealerships in the Twin Cities for 30 years and has been general manager at Coon Rapids Chrysler Jeep and Lincoln Mercury the past six years.
That tradition of giving back to the community continues under the dealership’s present ownership, the Twin Cities Automotive Group and its owners, the Pohlad family, he said.
The new van has power doors that can be operated from three or four different areas and has more safety features than the previous van, Kittilstved said.
“This is a ‘vantastic’ donation,” said Kris Niebler, Coon Rapids Senior Services program specialist.
“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Coon Rapids Chrysler Jeep over the past 30-plus years.”
According to Niebler, the new van, together with the larger 14-passenger vehicle that Coon Rapids Senior Services has, provides transportation for seniors to and from the senior center as well as for special outings.
In 2012, 137 different seniors rode in one of the two vans for more than 4,000 rides, Niebler said.
For many of the seniors that use the van, it is their only means of transportation to and from the senior center and its activities, which include daily meals, entertainment and programs, she said.
Along with the vehicles, volunteer drivers – there are eight of them – make the program possible by donating more than 1,700 hours in 2012, Niebler said.
Some of the volunteer drivers have been doing so for 10 years or more, she said.
“They drive no matter the weather and we can’t thank them enough,” Niebler said.
Having the transportation available increases the quality of life for seniors, according to Niebler.
Speaking on behalf of the council, Johnson said the city appreciated the donation and the tremendous opportunities the transportation program provides to serve seniors in the community.
According to Sharon Legg, city finance director who oversees the senior services operations, the senior transportation program is an important service to area seniors, especially those are otherwise homebound.
The donation of the van is “great for the senior center,” Legg said.
Councilmember Bruce Sanders is one of the volunteer drivers.
“I can’t wait to get behind the wheel,” he said. “This is really neat because the old one was on its last legs.”
The Coon Rapids Senior Center is located in the Coon Rapids City Center at 11155 Robinson Dr.
The center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while the Senior Dining program offers noon meals. Other services include Chores & More and the Senior Companion program.
Call 763-767-6473 for information.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]