By Linda Scherer
St. Mary’s activity bus, Old Blue, will be out of a job in March when a new, modern 15-passenger bus is scheduled to arrive to replace it.
After a year of trying to save up enough dollars to purchase the new bus for the Winsted care center and Linden Wood Apartments, the St. Mary’s bus committee finally reached its $48,000 goal.
The bus task force has been in a hurry to reach its goal because Old Blue, which has been the main means of transportation for St. Mary’s for 23 years, is in desperate need of retirement. The committee was hoping the bus would hang in there until the funds for the new bus had been raised.
“It seemed like we got up to $47,000 really fast, but that last $1,000 took forever,” said Woody Yager, a member of the bus committee.
St. Mary’s Administrator/CEO Andy Opsahl started researching buses about three months ago when the funding for the new bus looked like it was going to become a reality.
With bids received from five different companies, Hoglund Bus Company of Monticello was asked to bring a bus out to St. Mary’s staff to test drive.
The bus task force met at St. Mary’s last Monday to ride along on the test ride as the next step in purchasing a bus for St. Mary’s.
Inside the bus, it was like a quiet celebration for the committee as everyone appeared to appreciate all of the bus’s up-to-date features.
With Opsahl, Therapeutic Recreation Manager Michele Mueller driving the bus, and members of the bus committee riding along, the passengers had a chance to experience first-hand how the new bus will handle.
After the test ride, and with the committee giving a general approval of the bus, Opsahl told the committee he would place the order.
Because of the one-year wait to collect the funds needed for the new bus, it will cost St. Mary’s an additional $5,000 to purchase the vehicle. A new bus will now cost $53,000.
“Our original goal was $48,000 and we will stay committed to that,” Opsahl said.
“We will figure out some way to pay for the bus, even if the donations don’t come in at this point. The fact that the goal changed, we just might have to swallow,” Opsahl said.
Mueller confirmed that they have already received another $1,000 since they reached the goal.
“If anyone would still like to donate, they would still be included in the list of sponsors to be acknowledged on the back of the bus. The sponsors list will remain on the bus for the life of the bus,” Opsahl said.
Anyone who would like to contribute to help St. Mary’s pay for the additional funds needed should contact Andy Opsahl, administrator/CEO of St. Mary’s Care Center/Linden Wood Apartments, at (320) 485-3130.
Donations are tax deductible and are accepted at Flagship Bank of Winsted.
Donations can also be sent to SMCC, bus fundraiser, 551 Fourth St. N. Suite 101, Winsted, MN 55395.
The bus that was ordered has a Ford chassis, V-10, with a fiberglass body, which should never rust.
“Old Blue (St. Mary’s previous bus) lasted 23 years. Hopefully this new bus will last 20 years,” Opsahl said.
The bus offers four wheelchair tie-downs, a heavier lift which is able to handle up to 1,000 pounds, and seating for 10 passengers plus the driver.
For St. Mary’s needs, Opsahl said the different bus options will be a “tremendous” asset.
“We could not have done it without all of the committee’s hard work. We are extremely fortunate for the support the community has given St. Mary’s,” Opsahl said.
The St. Mary’s bus committee members are Woody and Helen Yager, Dick and Joan Genty, Jean and Jan Kappel, Bill Fynboh, and Berdine Johnson.
Old Blue is for sale
Once Old Blue’s replacement arrives in March, St. Mary’s will have to figure out what to do with Old Blue.
Not everyone will be glad to see Old Blue replaced.
“I know I will miss it because I really liked driving it,” Mueller said.
Anyone interested in purchasing Old Blue can contact Opsahl at St. Mary’s.
“We are willing to sell it if the price is right, and we are not unrealistic about what it is worth,” Opsahl said.