Usually, the Yelm Adult Community Center has a system of buses that take home-bound folks to the senior center, but right now, that service is severely hampered.
That’s because the center has no bus drivers until August rolls around, and the one driver who has been recruited hasn’t started yet.
Genie James, the volunteer executive director of the Yelm Adult Community Center, said bus drivers take seniors to the center to socialize for lunch and then take them home afterwards. On Thursdays, the drivers take the seniors to a store like Grocery Outlet, Walmart or Safeway, so they can shop for an hour.
The center has four regular seniors using the service to get to meals. On Thursday, however, there could be up to six or seven in need, James said.
“There’s people that need transportation here where there needs to be a wheelchair lift and on the busses that we have that have wheelchair lifts, we can’t keep the lifts working, so there’s people that we can’t bring in because of our bus situation,” James said, pointing out the volunteer repair work that needs to be done.
As far as bus drivers go, the center used to have three. They would rotate days, but then for a while, they just had one driver.
“Because it’s a volunteer position (without pay), they drive when they want to, basically, or when they are available,” James said. “We had a guy that was driving for four days, and he said it was too much so he went down to two days, so that meant that there were two days that people couldn’t get in here.”
James said the center’s current predicament is just the way volunteer labor goes sometimes.
“It’s a volunteer position, and when people volunteer, you take what you can get,” she said. “And you’re thankful for what you can get, but it makes it hard on the people who aren’t able to get here.”
As of now, no one is being bused in, but the center has managed to recruit one person, who has at least expressed interest. But he hasn’t taken a route yet, so it’s unknown if he will be a long-term solution.
“We have a gentleman that came down for the cooling center, and while we were visiting, I talked to him about being a bus driver and he signed up,” James said. “He did all of the things that are required, but now he’s on vacation, so I think he’ll be starting in August. But then again, he’s also a caregiver, so he’ll have days that he will not be able to drive.”
She added that one driver just isn’t enough.
Ideally the center could use two or three drivers, James said, so that if one person is only willing to drive once a week, others could fill in the gaps.
To become a driver, all one has to do is meet three requirements. They must have a valid driver’s license, they need to pass a Washington State Patrol background check and also need to pass a physical exam, which the center will pay for, James said.
The senior center is open to the public for hot meals Wednesday through Friday with food being served from 11:30 a.m. to noon for a suggested donation.
And on July 31, there will be an open house at 10:30 a.m., followed by the Summer Senior Games at 1:30 p.m., where seniors will compete in events designed for all ability levels. Families are welcome to come and cheer the seniors on.
The first 20 seniors that come to the games, who have never been a member of the center before, will have their $20 membership fee for the rest of the year paid in full.