Mercy Place blessed with bus support

By Liz Mellino

One year after a fatal bus accident claimed the lives of three Mercy Place residents who were on a day trip to the Tatura Bakery, the Shepparton home has raised enough funds to buy a new bus.

Fundraising began in February this year and four months on the home has raised a staggering $64000 to go towards buying a new Toyota Hiace Commuter with wheelchair access.

The funds were raised from a number of grants, an anonymous donor, an ex-resident testamentary trust, businesses, donations from residents and their families, and internal fundraising.

Mercy Place lifestyle co-ordinator Nicole Florance said the home was overwhelmed by the community support it had received in the past four months.

‘‘The past year has been really hard on everyone, but it has really shown us what a true family Mercy Place is,’’ she said.

‘‘We are so excited that the residents will be able to get back out in the community and that we will also be able to bring the community in here.

‘‘For our residents engaging in the community, giving them as many opportunities to get out there and giving them quality of life is the most important thing really.’’

A final donation of $2000 was handed over on Tuesday from the Shepparton RSL, which also agreed to provide an ongoing $2000 donation every year to help with services and everyday maintenance of the bus.

Shepparton RSL general manager Grant Tarrant said the RSL donated its own bus to the home for use following the accident last June.

‘‘We heard about the accident on the news and we contacted Mercy Place to see if they needed a bus in the interim to give them the opportunity to go on some outings and also work as a bit of rehabilitation for them as well,’’ he said.

‘‘We are really keen to continue the support with a $2000 donation every year as they offer a great service to the community.’’

Ms Florance said the home rallied together in the past couple of months to raise funds by hosting a Bunnings barbecue, high tea, hair shave, pyjama day and a number of other occasions for residents.

The home is planning to buy the bus next week and have conversion works completed in time for the bus to be used next month.

Mercy Place resident Laura Vagg survived the accident last year, but suffered a broken back and was airlifted to a Melbourne hospital’s intensive care unit.

As traumatic as the experience was for her and the other residents, Ms Vagg said she had not let the incident stop her and was looking forward to the first outing in the new bus, which Ms Florance said could be a return to the Tatura Bakery.

‘‘I am a bit wary when I get on the bus sometimes, you think is it going to happen again,’’ Ms Vagg said. ‘‘I got on the bus again soon after the accident because we were told to as soon as we can and it was very frightening — but I did it and had a big cry afterwards.

‘‘It hasn’t stopped me since the accident — I don’t want to miss out.’’