Susie Van

WI Drive helping to get the elderly, disabled where they need to go

A Langley woman gives rides to people in need in her new van named “Cookie.”

The good deeds of one South Whidbey woman and her door-to-door assisted transportation service will continue, thanks to the generosity of the community.

Last year, Langley resident Heather Mayhugh came up with the idea of WI Drive, Whidbey Island Drive, a service providing rides for the elderly and people with disabilities to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments on the mainland and more.

Until recently, Mayhugh, a former construction worker and EMT, only gave rides in Clarence, her van named after the guardian angel in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

A few weeks ago, a Whidbey resident who wishes to remain anonymous helped secure an addition to the fleet — a fully wheelchair-accessible van, complete with a ramp and ample room in the backseat for a wheelchair.

The new van is named Cookie, Mayhugh said. And yes, the van is a girl.

Clinton resident Susie Kanewske was the first passenger on Cookie’s maiden voyage on Christmas Eve.

“This is a much-needed service for sure,” Kanewske said. “For people with disabilities, this is going to be their answer.”

Mayhugh’s service is catered to each individual’s needs, Kanewske added.

Maureen Cooke, a volunteer who is helping to run the business end of WI Drive, agreed. The van provides a cozy setting where clients can relax while running errands or going to doctor’s appointments.

“It’s a much-needed service,” Cooke said.

She added that Mayhugh has a list of around 25 people who are currently wheelchair-bound and in need of WI Drive. Mayhugh has transported many people as far as the UW Medical Center in Seattle.

Ride fares are currently based on donations. Cooke is helping Mayhugh to attain 501(c)(3) nonprofit certification, which will allow the service to establish a fixed rate for rides.

“In the future, we want to offer monthly and yearly memberships for people that are on fixed incomes,” Mayhugh said.

Although they are still working out the details, this would also include an option for people to anonymously sponsor a rider.

The vans are meticulously cleaned after a passenger has been aboard. A sign of good sanitation, Mayhugh pointed with a laugh to Cookie’s leather seats, which are becoming weathered from the amount of times she has cleaned them with disinfectant wipes.

Because of the pandemic, ridership is currently lower than what it was when she first started WI Drive, Mahugh said.

“Obviously right now things are slow,” she said. “Most people in wheelchairs are people who are immunosuppressed in one way or another.”

She is hopeful, however, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The new van is spacious, and post-COVID, will be able to fit more than one wheelchair if, for example, friends or residents of an assisted living community wish to ride together.

Cooke said she sees it as the perfect opportunity to take senior citizens on field trips to pot shops and wineries.

“It’s going to run for a long time,” Mayhugh said of the van. “It’s going to take good care of people on the island. That’s my goal.”

To contact WI Drive, call 360-320-3075 or visit the Facebook page, @whidbeyislanddrive

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