Crenshaw County Purchases Van for Luverne Nutrition Center

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Luverne Nutrition Center recently received a brand-new 2022 10-passenger Ford van that replaced the 2006 model van that had been in use.

The new van will supply senior citizens transportation to and from the Luverne Nutrition Center. It will also be used to deliver hot meals to homebound senior citizens in the community and to assist these persons and others over the age of 60 with various transportation needs. 

The van was purchased with funds made available through the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March of 2021 to help provide state and local governments fiscal recovery funds to address the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on municipalities, local economies, public health and safety, and quality of life issues.

The Investing in Alabama Counties Program (IAC), established by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA), supplies personalized assistance, expertise, guidance, and implementation assistance to ensure the county’s federally restricted funds are utilized within the requirements of the U.S. Department of Treasury.

“Participating in the IAC program has been a godsend for the county government. IAC helped the Luverne Nutrition Center obtain the 2022 model van that updates the transportation needs at the center by many years over the previous one. The van will be invaluable to the center for years to come, and the ACCA is to be commended for their efforts,” said County Administrator David Smyth.

Windell Smith, Nutrition Center van driver, is proud that now, unlike last year, he will have an air conditioner in the van in the summer and a heater in the winter.  Smith takes even more pride in the fact that along with the meals, the van he drives delivers human interaction and a check on the welfare of those that might not otherwise receive this attention. 

Smith, known as Boot, has been delivering meals for the Luverne Nutrition Center for around six years and has learned to keep his eyes open for things out of the ordinary.

“If I notice something that is out of routine, like a light that is always on but is turned off, blinds not open like normal, or if I knock and no one comes to the door, I call Mrs. Anita before I get back in the van and tell her she needs to get someone to check on them,” Smith said. “It’s the little things I watch for, and I think many people appreciate that along with the food,” Smith said.

The Luverne Nutrition Center serves almost 70 meals daily, with 30 of those meals delivered to citizens that have trouble leaving their homes.

Charlotte Fuller of Rutledge comes to the center most every weekday courtesy of the van.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday, the nutrition center van picks her up from dialysis and brings her to the center.

“I am so thankful for Anita and Boot and the nutrition center,” Fuller said. “Without them, I am not sure what I would do. Two of my sons work in the log woods, and one son works out of town for the state. They can’t just drop what they are doing in the middle of the day to get me from dialysis. 

“I love coming to the center. We play dominoes and cards, and we do puzzle books and exercise. We also celebrate the birthdays of the people that come to the center. It gives me something to do, and I love Anita and everyone here. I also love the new van, and now we can go anywhere, and we have plenty of room and an air conditioner.” 

According to center manager Anita West, the center also provides transportation services for senior events and fulfills other transportation requests.

“Before the old van got into such bad shape, we would take field trips. It has been a while since we have been able to go anywhere because we were scared the van would leave us stranded. So, this crew is ready for an adventure. Our first field trip on the new van will be to David’s Catfish in Andalusia this month. We also partner with OCAP to help connect our center visitors with those resources. Having access to a spacious and reliable van will help our nutrition center continue to care for our seniors like this,” West said.

Crenshaw County Commission Chair Charlie Sankey, Jr. said, “The health and well-being of Crenshaw County’s seniors is an important priority for the Crenshaw County Commission. The Luverne Nutrition Center is vital in keeping these folks healthy and active in the community. We are delighted to be able to assist the center’s important work by providing a new van through the use of our county ARPA funds.” 

The Luverne Nutrition Center is dedicated to providing a program that promotes better health by providing accurate and healthy nutrition, physical fitness, and health information and instruction to participants and caregivers. The center also offers opportunities for clients that must be 60 years of age or older or the spouse of an individual age 60 or over to participate in sports, performing arts, games, crafts, use exercise equipment or enjoy these activities as a spectator.

For more information, contact Anita West at 335-6712.