When a Traditional Loan Is Not an Option: Hamilton Woman Purchases Van with MATL

Sarah's bright red accessible minivan.


As a social worker, Sarah Imoe investigated allegations of child abuse for Child Protective Services.  Facing parents resentful of her presence in their homes was part of the job, but first she had to get into their homes. Sarah’s multi mini-core myopathy made the simple process of getting into a house challenging.  One visit required her to climb on blocks up to a trailer door, then crawl on her knees across the living room. By the time she made it to the sofa to pull herself up, the initially hostile parents had warmed up. “When someone has to crawl into your house, you’re no longer their enemy,” Sarah laughs.

Multi mini-core myopathy is hereditary and presents much like muscular dystrophy. The condition causes progressive muscle weakness, has no known cure, and is prevalent in Sarah’s family.  “Our family knows we have it, but everyone just does what we can do,” she explains.  “We find another way.”  That attitude has helped her overcome many hurdles associated with her diagnosis, the latest being her struggle to buy an accessible van.

Close-up of Sarah, smiling and wearing glasses and flowered shirt.At 66, Sarah’s myopathy has progressed; she requires a power chair to get around. While the chair provides increased mobility in one sense, it also demands an accessible vehicle for transport.  Unfortunately, her modest means made a traditional car loan impossible. “I was getting desperate,” she says.  “Then I heard about the loan program and thought, it doesn’t hurt to try.”

That loan program is MonTECH’s Montana Assistive Technology Loan (MATL). Sarah learned about it through Chris Clasby at Summit Independent Living Center. MATL is a loan option provided by the partnership of MonTECH and Rural Dynamics, Inc. (now affiliated with GreenPath).  This nonprofit lending option offers 0% interest on loans up to $1500, and 3.5% on loans up to $50,000.  While banks can be reluctant to provide loans for assistive technology (AT), particularly in conjunction with a low income, the MATL program is designed specifically for AT users who find themselves unable to pay out of pocket and unlikely to qualify for traditional loan options.

Rural Dynamics logo, white lettering on green background.With the combined effort of Gregg Lundin at A&M Mobility in Missoula, Elaine Szirbik at Rural Dynamics, and a son who’s a mechanic, Sarah was able to finance $4,000 for an accessible van she describes as “functional, reliable, and still cheap enough to buy.”

Not flashy, but it serves its purpose. Sarah is no longer reliant on others to run errands, get to appointments, and make it to church.  She owns her time, which allows room in her schedule to pursue passions that give her joy:  window shopping, sewing, and gardening.  Sarah is an avid gardener, but her disease makes it increasingly difficult. “It’s really hard to limit yourself as a gardener,” she admits.  True to form, she found another way to do that too: container gardening. “You look around, and you find a way,” she advises. “That’s been my whole life.”