Community chips in to fix adoptive mother's handicap van

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The Warwick community came together to raise more than $1,300 to repair a van donated to Michele Rothgeb, an Oakland Beach mother of eight adopted children who all have some form of a disability.

The fundraising efforts were led by Marie Cavanaugh, who lives near Rothgeb. Cavanaugh had visited Rothgeb’s home before Christmas to drop off a basket full of toys on behalf of the Elks Club. It was then that Cavanaugh noticed the van parked in Rothgeb’s driveway. She asked Rothgeb about it, and she said the vehicle was not operational and didn't know what it would take to fix it.

“Well, let’s find out!” Cavanaugh exclaimed. And thus began Cavanaugh’s mission, which she dubbed “Operation Fix the Van.”

Cavanaugh put out a request on the City of Warwick Positive Facebook Page, asking if there was a business that would allow them to raffle off a Fingerling – one of the hottest Christmas toys of 2018 – to raise money for Operation Fix the Van. 

Steve Brady, general manager of 4corners Coffee, opened the store to Cavanaugh and her friend Jennifer Jacobs, also a member of the Elks Club. After hearing about their efforts, four other Fingerlings were donated by various people. By Christmas Eve morning, the raffle for the toys had raised $405.

Cavanaugh then informed Rothgeb of the start-up and AAA towed the van to Rob’s Transmission on Roseland Avenue in Warwick to have it inspected. A week later, they informed Rothgeb that the van needed $1,300 worth of repairs. Cavanaugh returned to the Facebook page, stating the estimate and that any donations would be greatly appreciated.

Ray Brooks, owner of Picasso’s Pizza & Pub, donated a substantial amount of money towards the endeavor. Brady of 4corners Coffee also contributed a generous amount, Cavanaugh said. Operation Fix the Van had almost reached their goal by the end of January, and Cavanaugh returned to Facebook asking for donations of any size to Rob’s Transmission to help make the goal a reality.

On Wednesday, March 14, Cavanaugh received a call from the garage in the morning that the final balance had been paid and that they were ordering parts to get the van fixed. The van is scheduled to be repaired by the end of this week, and Rothgeb will finally be able to take all of her children out at once.

Cavanaugh said that one of the Rothgeb family’s first group outings will be to church, where they can pray for all of those who helped them. Cavanaugh also brought this story to the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Oakland Beach Fire Barn, and they offered to donate a $100 gift card for gas, so Rothgeb can fill up the van once she gets it home.

Rothegeb was deeply touched by the donations to help her out.

“It just floored me that so many people, most of who I don’t even know, participated in this. It is just amazing.” She said, adding that, “to everyone that participated, I thank them greatly.”

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