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A van for Anne

Known for her kindness and tenacity, Eagle Point resident Anne Beck has faced more obstacles in 30 years of life than most. Wheelchair bound due to osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare genetic disorder that causes extremely brittle bones, Beck has endured hundreds of breaks and fractures in her lifetime.

The condition, which her sister Jennifer also has, is caused by a defective gene that affects the production of bone-strengthening collagen. Refusing to allow that a fixed income and a wheelchair should stifle her independence, Beck set out three years ago, 10 cents at a time, collecting cans and bottles toward a wheelchair-accessible van.

“When I was a kid, I broke my bones more often than other kids, but I haven’t had a break — knock on wood — since 2011,” said the Eagle Point native.

“I try not to let it get me down. I try to find ways to still do the things I need to do, but one way that I could really improve my independence would be to find a way to get to appointments and job interviews without having to rely on others.”

Job hunting has been daunting, Beck said. While she owned an older van in recent years, it broke down three years ago, forcing her to rely on friends and family or borrow her sister’s van for medical appointments.

“Living on a fixed income, it’s not really possible to save any money for a van. I could manage payments each month, but the down payment is the hardest part,” she said.

“I went to college for graphic design, and I have a degree in that, but getting a job is hard. Every time I have an interview for something, most places can’t really seem to look past the wheelchair. It’s always like, ‘Oh, hey, thanks for coming in!’”

Those closest to her say the determination Beck has to live her life and solve her biggest obstacle would be a tall feat for anyone, yet Beck exudes positivity, spending much of her time volunteering at a local school and, when needed, helping her sister crochet beanies for NICU babies. A holiday side hustle turned passion, Beck also has a secret gig for St. Nick, but can’t divulge details for fear of blowing her cover with some local kiddos.

“Let’s just say that I was recruited to send naughty and nice letters for Santa for the past few years,” she admitted.

Family friend Paulie Ziemann, of Medford, said Beck’s unwavering optimism amidst what most would find daunting is inspiring.

“Anne always has the best and most creative ideas, and she’s so determined to do whatever she can. She has tried to find employment so many times and it’s been really challenging for people to look beyond the wheelchair, which is really too bad because she’s super capable on computer stuff and has so much perseverance,” Ziemann said.

“I think the hard thing for me to understand is that she’s at a point in dealing with our system where she’s even having to collect cans to figure out transportation.”

Melissa Sohnrey, Beck’s oldest sister, said Beck takes her bottle and can project in stride and continues to focus on those around her, from hosting “drive-in movies” for her nieces and nephews during COVID to providing constant encouragement.

“She’s my baby sister yet she’s always kind of been the little piece of glue that keeps us all together. She’s just the most kind, thoughtful, generous person and goes above and beyond for literally anyone she meets, even strangers,” Sohnrey said.

“It’s really sad that people only see the chair when she applies for a job because if somebody put her in a customer service position or a place she was able to do customer care, she would blow them out of the water. It’s not a matter of IF she collects enough cans. ... When she decides to do something, she just does it.”

Sohnrey said transportation would provide Beck yet another tool to infuse some good into the world.

“If people want to help make a real change in someone’s life for somebody who will go out there and pay it forward, this is it,” she added.

“My sister is somebody who never gives up, and after all she’s gone through she’s still happy and kind and generous. She’s just really incredible, and she has been since the day she was born.”

To date, Beck has collected about $3,300 from bottles and cans and selling handmade wares at craft bazaars. A recently established GoFundMe campaign had amassed $1,460 as of March 24.

Beck said she was grateful for each donation, however small.

“Every time someone donates on gofundme or by donating cans, it makes me feel so loved and hopeful,” she said.

“2020 was such a hard year for everyone. It’s so awesome to know people are still working together to help one person.”

To schedule a can pickup, send a text to 541-292-4841.

To donate, go to www.gofundme.com and search for “A Van for Anne.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Anne Beck, of Eagle Point, shares moment with her dog at her home on Friday. Beck has a genetic disorder and is collecting cans to help purchase a wheelchair accessible van to give her independence.