Cathie Anderson: Paratransit car sales specialist lifts vehicle price barriers for disabled

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 - 8:20 am

Sacramento's Paratransit Inc. moved into the car sales business without a hitch earlier this year, hiring industry veteran Richard Rosebush to find affordable vehicles for the disabled.

The challenge for Rosebush hasn't been finding the right cars or finding buyers with good credit. Rather, Rosebush has struggled with getting traditional banks and credit unions to understand the value of a used, modified vehicle.

"I have a 2000 Windstar with 80,000 miles on it," he said. "It was modified. You go to … Kelly Blue Book, and it's going to say it's a $5,000 vehicle. In reality, it's a $15,000 vehicle. …

"If a customer says, 'I've got $3,000 to put down and I need financing on the rest,' then we have a challenge as far as trying to find a bank to recognize the real worth of this vehicle."

Rosebush said the difficulty arises mostly with minivans and other vehicles older than 2005, but those are precisely the vehicles that are affordable for families he serves. Rosebush's goal is to sell new and used vehicles for between $7,500 and $50,000.

A spokeswoman for the American Banking Association said it wasn't a problem she'd run into before. Rosebush said it's not a barrier too many people understand – until they're facing it.

He predicts that car sales will bring in upward of $200,000 after expenses, money that will be funneled back into services provided by the nonprofit Paratransit.

The agency has offered transportation services to individuals with disabilities, the elderly and others since 1978. It's located in the Florin Road facility that once housed the Mel Rapton dealership.

Expansion comes naturally

The entrepreneurial Linda Deavens has added consultant and now car dealer to the roles played by Paratransit Inc.

Deavens started at the nonprofit 33 years ago as a part-time, temporary secretary. She's now the chief executive.

"We had six vehicles when I came," she said. "… Today we have 180 vehicles that are in service, 90 at peak time every day. … We have to operate almost 24 hours a day."

When Deavens took the reins five years ago, her budget was $20.6 million. It is now $30 million. The new revenue has helped her maintain services, even when Sacramento Regional Transit reduced service hours.

These days, Paratransit regularly wins consulting contracts from cities as far afield as Honolulu and Boston. Their consulting work includes training people with disabilities on how to use public transit and assessing whether the disabled qualify for paratransit service.

Geri Ung, a planner with Honolulu's Department of Transportation Services, said the agency has received improved marks on compliancy with the Americans with Disabilities Act because of Paratransit's work.

Good, clean candy

Ann Stoermer wears goggles, long gloves and an apron when she goes to work in a spare room of her Roseville home.

"Yeah, I look real cute," she said. "I just hope nobody knocks on the front door when I'm doing it."

What is she doing? The erstwhile teacher makes soap. Her creations sell at, but to really appreciate her work, visit Stieber's Sweet Shoppe in the Fountains at Roseville shopping center. There, Larry and Susan Stieber and their children not only have gathered an array of sweet things but also have incorporated novelty items with a sweets theme.

They've wrapped Stoermer's colorful cupcakes and candies with cellophane and ribbons.

Her slices of cake nestle inside cardboard boxes. Prices are $4-$11.

They're as unexpected as designer Nahui Ollin's arm candy – clutch bags and arm totes made from the wrappers of Junior mints, Whoppers, Bubble Yum and more – priced at $16 to $150.

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