Renee Benson Donates New Wheelchair Van to Madonna Residents

San Antonio, TX

Claudia Garcia and Alejandro Calderon contributed text and photos for this story

(L-R) Fr. William Morell, OMI, Noelia Peña of Oblate Missions, Madonna Community Superior, Fr. Charles Banks, OMI, Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI, Renee Benson.

Fr. Jack Franco, OMI took the first ride on the lift into the van.

The San Antonio Oblates and the Oblate Residents of Madonna Community held a special celebration thanking Renee Benson for her generous donation of a new Wheelchair-accessible van on April 11, 2018. The presentation of the new van (replacing an older one also donated by Ms. Benson several years ago) started with a conversation between Claudia Garcia of Oblate Missions, and Madonna’s  Superior, Fr. Charles Banks, OMI about a year ago.

Ms. Garcia and Fr. Banks were discussing capital needs at Madonna Residence.  One of the needs was to replace the 17+ year old wheelchair van that was breaking down.  Such a vehicle is necessary for taking wheelchair-bound residents to the doctor, hospital visits, shopping, outings, etc.  Ms. Garcia then spoke with Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI who, along with Fr. William Morell, OMI, worked with Renee Benson to find a new vehicle from a company that specializes in wheelchair vans.

According to Fr. Charles Banks, the new Ford van is “much larger than the old one, it has a lift in the back to safely get wheelchair passengers into the van with a capacity of five or six passengers at a time. The old van could only accommodate two passengers at a time.”

Ms. Benson donated the original van many years ago as a special favor to her friend, Fr. John Sokolsky, OMI, who was in a wheelchair and living at the Madonna Residence at the time with no practical way to get around. The old van won’t be put out to pasture however, after some mechanical work, it will be transferred to Tewksbury, MA where it will continue to serve wheelchair-bound Oblates at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Residence.