Spirits were high in Hythe last Friday as ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the Hythe Continuing Care Centre (HCCC) to welcome its new bus.
Heather Hermanson, a HCCC resident, had the honours of cutting the ribbon.
“It’s wonderful,” said Arlene Martin, a resident at HCCC.
Martin and Hermanson were some of the first residents to have a look inside. The ladies say they were surprised how much more spacious it was compared to the previous bus.
When pandemic restrictions began in March 2020, HCCC decided to send its bus in for an inspection. A significant amount of rust on the undercarriage made for a failing grade, said Haley Genovese, recreation therapy assistant at HCCC.
That’s when fundraising was amped up to get a new bus, she explained, with a goal set for approximately $100,000.
An online auction raised $20,000 and another $20,000 came from Pipestone Energy Corp. CNRL donated $15,000.
The community then flooded the organization with donations from local businesses and the general public. HCCC ordered the bus in January and after the long wait of about 10 months, it finally arrived.
The new one is much more spacious than its predecessor, with room for five wheelchairs -- one more than the last bus -- and six seats compared to the previous four.
One of the features of the new unit is that wheelchairs will sit closer to the window and allow passengers a better view, which will be a nice touch for country drives and when they go to look at Christmas lights later this year.
“They can jump on the bus, and they can just look out the window and feel like they were back on the farm,” said Dawn Taylor-Bidewell, recreation therapist based in Grande Prairie.
The bus gives residents a chance to go on shopping trips or excursions such as bowling, the movies or for a country drive on a nice afternoon.
“It gives them some more independence to be able to say I can go to the store and pick up what I want,” said Taylor-Bidewell.
She said it also allows some residents who have wheelchairs to get out more as some families cannot accommodate transportation.
“If they don't have transportation that has a lift, then those residents are essentially trapped within our facility, so having the bus is a good opportunity for us to get them out and get out of the facility for a little while,” said Genovese.
HCCC resident Martin noted the “new car smell” and how smooth the lift was.
Residents have already begun enjoying the bus with trips to visiting the countryside, and heading to the city for a coffee run.
Hermanson said that she is excited to get to see the Christmas lights around the area in the “much more comfortable” bus.
“There's going to be 1,000 kilometres on this bus in like two weeks,” said Taylor-Bidewell, noting that residents want to get out and see the area and neighbours.
“We'll probably drive around Hythe a bit too and toot the horn and make sure everyone in the community knows it's here,” said Genovese.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News