Loyal Lifts: A Journey of Dedication - TribPapers

Loyal Lifts: A Journey of Dedication

Keith Wells enjoys helping the disabled elderly get to appointments without leaving their wheelchairs. Photo courtesy Loyal Lifts.

Asheville – Keith Alan Wells had been driving for the City of Asheville’s Department of Public Works for well over 20 years when, in 2015, he experienced a transient ischemic attack. He returned to work with doctor’s orders not to do any driving, so he started riding around on the back of a truck, collecting debris. This, and a lot of encouragement from his coworkers, helped him drop from 315 to 205 pounds in 10 months.

He should have been feeling great, but then he found out he had throat cancer. Three months after that, on a follow-up CT scan, it was discovered that he had colon cancer. On the bright side, he said the throat cancer saved his life. Unfortunately, as he recovered and “got in good shape,” he tore his right rotator cuff in the gym and had to sit out of work for another five months. To this day, he remains grateful to the civil servants with the City of Asheville who donated their leave time after he burned through all his.

Reflecting, he prayed, “Lord, You’ve left me here for some reason other than driving around for the City of Asheville.” That was when he came up with the idea for Loyal Lifts Transportation Services, LLC. It would be a way to help people, especially the most vulnerable.

He chose the word “loyal” because it projected a sense of reliability and dependability. He wanted to convey to the elderly and disabled the sense that somebody would “be there constantly for them.” After all, he knew what it was like to be dependent on others and how important it was to treat those who can’t do for themselves with dignity.

He worked with Ilderton Conversions on Dogwood Road in West Asheville to design and build the perfect vehicle. Wells uses a Chrysler Pacifica Limited van with BraunAbility conversion. He is able to roll people into the back, facing forward, and secure them. They remain in their wheelchairs for the entire ride. His co-owner and wife, Candace, drives another vehicle for non-wheelchair transport during the summer when she is not teaching elementary school.

In addition to driving people to doctors’ appointments, Loyal Lifts will take people to get their hair done, to weddings or funerals, or just to see family members. They even help with grocery shopping. Candace said they worked with McGuire Wood and Bissette to set up the LLC, and they sat down with their insurance agent to ensure their policy would cover all the services they wanted their business to offer.

For example, many companies can only provide curb-to-curb service. The Wellses wanted to be able to go door-to-door and help people as needed. They also wanted to be able to take people out of state. “We help people get their freedoms to do things,” said Keith.

Candace and Keith both said business was great, but Keith recalled that the first two months were slow. The third month, COVID hit, but Keith didn’t take a hit. He explained, “I didn’t know what to do. I went to Deerfield and lit some fires, talked to a lot of people, and got my name out.” Fortunately, it paid off because Deerfield was soon calling Loyal Lifts often. People had to go to their dialysis or colonoscopy appointments, and a lot of drivers, like other essential workers, didn’t want to risk catching or spreading the disease or running afoul of a changing sea of regulations.

Keith said COVID taught him a lot. He still carries Clorox wipes in the front and Lysol in the back. He never books multiple parties at once. Every ride is private, and everything a passenger may have touched “inside and outside” is cleaned between lifts.

Candace said one of the great things about Loyal Lifts is trust. She said they have a lot of repeat customers. The elderly and disabled often express hesitancy about calling an Uber because they don’t know who’ll be coming. Both Candace and Keith have been saddened by real-life instances where service personnel were taking advantage of elderly people isolated from family members.

The Wellses therefore respect and honor the wishes of family members, or professional care teams, to get acquainted first. At Deerfield, Keith said, “The staff, the nurses, and the residents know who they’re getting.”

Lastly, the Wells’ aren’t relying on word of mouth for advertising. Their search engine visibility is fit for a multinational corporation. “It’s managed by Adam Bennett of Creative Cube Design,” explained Candace.