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18 Aug 2023

Senior members of St John, volunteer drivers and Impact100 members gathered yesterday to bless the new wheelchair accessible heath shuttle with the Rev Robyn McPhail

A new shuttle to take immobile people to health appointments and out and about on "friendship drives" was welcomed by Hato Hone St John Wakatipu at a blessing ceremony in Queenstown yesterday.

The wheelchair-accessible vehicle was made possible by a $148,000 grant from Impact100, a "women’s giving circle" that is an initiative of the Wakatipu Community Foundation.

Impact100 members joined with St John staff and volunteers at the ceremony, in which Wakatipu chaplain the Rev Dr Robyn McPhail led the blessing with prayer and a sprinkling of holy water on the new shuttle.

Members of Impact100’s giving circle, now in its fourth year, give $1000 each, and local charities are then invited to submit a funding application. These are whittled down to five finalists.

Impact100 Wakatipu chair Clare Irons said the shuttle was chosen from five local projects.

"The transformational difference it will make to people’s lives was the thing that encouraged people to vote for this fabulous health shuttle," she said.

The application was led by St John community engagement co-ordinator Sarah Bloxham, who said she was proud to have played a part in delivering the shuttle for the district.

"The shuttle enables locals who are unable to drive to get to their health appointments that are outside Queenstown, in particular Invercargill or Dunedin. The new shuttle with a wheelchair hoist will mean we can help more people to access important health services."

As well as the shuttle, Impact100’s funding covered three years of fuel for the vehicle.

St John New Zealand national community care manager of health Julie Taverner said it was "amazing" that a group of women had come together to provide the big capital outlay for the shuttle and running costs.

On weekends the health shuttle acts as a mobility vehicle, taking mainly elderly people on outings called "friendship drives".

St John Wakatipu Kawarau area committee chair Kirsten Dennison Chair said ageing or disability should not equate to isolation or loneliness.

"The local friendship drives have uplifted countless lives and allowed individuals to continue contributing to our community. This transcends boundaries, not just physical, but also mental, emotional, and social wellness."

The grant has also enabled St John to purchase a new Rav4 vehicle to be used for other community education outreach programmes, connecting passengers to the shuttle and supporting the St John youth programme.

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