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A dime at a time pays off

Community steps forward to help local woman buy a handicapped accessible van

EAGLE POINT — One week after sharing her story of saving money “a dime at a time” by refunding cans and bottles to pay toward a wheelchair-accessible van, Eagle Point resident Anne Beck is enjoying newfound freedom with a like-new 2017 Honda Odyssey.

After ending a three-year stretch without transportation, Beck said help from generous community members have given her a newfound faith in humanity.

A graphic designer by trade, Beck, 30, spends her days in a motorized chair due to a condition called osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare genetic disorder that causes extremely brittle bones and has caused countless breaks and fractures.

The condition, which her sister Jennifer also has, is caused by a defective gene that affects the production of bone-strengthening collagen. Living on a fixed income and struggling to find employment, Beck had longed for her own transportation since an older van fell apart three years ago.

After sharing her story, Beck said she received numerous calls from people offering can and bottle donations — and cash for her GoFundMe page — which enabled her to put a down payment on the $53,000 van. A discount and vehicle search help from R&J mobility, Beck said, helped her get into a van.

“R&J Mobility Service got a hold of me because they saw my story, and they said, ‘We have a van that’s perfect for you and it’s probably exactly what you want, so you should come down and see it,’” Beck recalled.

“I went down and saw it and I loved it. We had so many donations, and we were getting close, so the next day my mom said, ‘We’re gonna just go down and get it!’”

Beck said she took out a $27,000 loan, which “is an awful lot,” but monthly payments are manageable and she’ll continue to collect cans to help pay it down.

“It was too good to pass up, and it only has 8,000 miles on it. Usually a van like that is $70,000, and we got it for $53,000. It was a consignment, so they got hold of the old owners and said, ‘We’re gonna send you this lady’s story!’” Beck recalled.

“I told them we were going to leave and think about it and figure out how to raise another $5,000 … and they took another $5,000 off.”

All told, Beck said more than 150 people donated on her GoFundMe site, with additional donations from local seniors who preferred an in-person donation and others who donated cans and bottles. R&J also gifted her with free tie-downs to keep her chair secure inside the van.

The largest donation came from Precision Electric of Medford, which donated $5,000. Owner Jack Schmidt said Beck’s story and her willingness to problem solve, no matter how tedious, resonated. Schmidt said seeing anyone with difficult challenges “attacking those challenges in the hardest way possible with a smile on their face” made him want to help.

“When you’re into $3,000 worth of cans and still hard at it, couldn’t there just be a light at the end of the tunnel already?” Schmidt said. “Thank goodness we all were able to help as a community.”

Sheriff Nathan Sickler and his wife, DeAnna, donated $500. Sickler said he and his wife are big fans of helping in the community when they see a good way to do so.

“My wife is more in tune with Facebook than I am most of the time. She mentioned she’d seen the story in the news, and we both thought, ‘What a cool story, this lady has been working so hard.’ We just thought, ‘Hey, we’re in a position to be able to help her,’ so we did. We saw a need and somebody that looked like they were working hard to meet a goal and beat a lot of different odds. I think that’s probably no different than anyone else who helped her out a little.”

Sickler said he was not surprised to see Beck meet her goal so quickly.

“It is nice to see, in a world that seems at times to be just consumed with itself on social media, be able to do something good for someone like this. I think the Rogue Valley is really nice in that we tend to take care of each other here.”

Beck’s mother, Eagle Point teacher Katrina Beck, said her family was in awe of the generosity of the community.

“It’s been nothing short of amazing that so many people — co-workers, old friends we haven’t seen in years, just people from all over — wanted to help,” she said.

“It means so much for her to be able to go and do the things she wants to do. She’s a real out and about person who loves to go window shopping and walk around the mall or go take pictures. She’s just so happy and so grateful.”

She added, “She looks very quiet, you don’t know what’s going on behind those eyes, but she’s planning and plotting things she can do, like this whole getting cans and bottles she decided to do, no matter how long it was going to take … and she keeps track of every person that calls her or donates.”

A welcome side effect for her sister, Anne is contemplating her next goal of having her sister’s van detailed after borrowing it for three years of can collecting.” Added the mother, “it smells like a brewery at this point.”

Beck said she has yet to process that she finally has her own van.

“I felt like it was going to take such a long time. Honestly, I didn’t even know if it was going to happen at all,” she said.

“People with no money donated cans and bottles. Older people who wanted to donate called me and just wanted to talk for a bit, which was fun. Everyone just said it was cool we were working so hard … a dime at a time.”

Beck added, “It just means a lot that so many people wanted to help me. And it means a lot to be able to just get out in the world again.”

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Anne Beck slides out of her wheelchair accessible van at Donahue-Frohnmayer Park in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAnne Beck loads into her wheelchair accessable van at Donahue Frohnmayer Park in Medford.