Community bands together to help Scott Rouse

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— For three years, Scott Rouse, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, depended on his Ford Taurus for trips to his doctor's office in Steamboat Springs and shopping trips to Kmart and other stores in Craig.

But two months ago, the car's transmission went out, taking Rouse's independence with it.

"It was depressing, I couldn't go anywhere," said Rouse, who lives in Hayden on a limited budget. "All I would do is sit out on the porch and watch cars go by."

But thanks to the helping hand of several agencies and residents, Rouse has reclaimed his independence with a 1995 Plymouth Voyager.

"Just the fact that he knows he can get in the car and go ... for him it was a really big deal," said Cathie Voorhees, Routt County coordinator for the Independent Life Center in Craig.

Voorhees helped gather funds from area organizations to put toward the $2,000 van.

In addition to $200 from the center, LIFT-UP of Routt County contributed $300 and Routt County United Way gave $900.

Members of Rouse's church, the First Baptist Church of Hayden, also gave and voted to contribute additional money from the church's general fund. In total, the church pitched in $900.

"We wanted to help him in that situation," pastor Arthur Houk said, noting that Rouse's new car, a former Alpine Taxi vehicle, is higher off the ground and accommodates Rouse's wheelchair better than his old car did.

Rouse's friends, Bruce and Betty Jean Harcourt, helped with $500. Rouse used the extra money to pay for the car's registration.

With winter approaching, Bruce Harcourt was so concerned about Rouse's situation that he initially wanted to buy a car for Rouse, but the couple realized that wasn't financially possible, so they helped out as much as they could, Betty Jean Harcourt said.

"His heart just went out for Scott ... we just felt that he needed help and shouldn't be up here without a car," she said.

Rouse received his blue van about two weeks ago. His brother, Bill Rogers, customized it with hand controls for the gas pedal and brake.

The Independent Life Center, a nonprofit organization that assists Northwest Colorado residents with disabilities in housing, equipment and health issues, typically doesn't help clients buy cars.

But the center, which is funded through state money and grants, made an exception because Rouse depended on a car for his day-to-day needs, Voorhees said.

"Here he was feeling stranded, so that was our main purpose, was making sure we could get him something," she said.

Rouse doesn't hesitate to express the difference personal transportation has made in his life.

"I can leave town and drive wherever I want to, and I'm not trapped," he said.

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