Partner Spotlights

Local shuttlebus provides much needed service for riders in rural area

Access to transportation is a fundamental need for all, but for older adults and those experiencing mobility challenges living in rural areas, it can be a significant challenge. Without reliable transportation options, these individuals may struggle to access essential services such as healthcare, grocery shopping, and social activities. This is where local shuttle bus transportation services can make all the difference.

For the Carthage area, the service making a difference for residents that are elderly, mobility challenged, and lacking in reliable transportation is the Wilna-Champion Transportation Association, Inc. (WCTA), a United Way funded program. The service, which averaged 1,000 miles per month in 2022, serves around 100 riders and offers them a sense of independence and freedom.

Bus driver William “Bill” Lunderman has been driving for the shuttle bus for over seven years and enjoys the personal relationships he has developed with riders. Bill, though technically retired, responded to a help-wanted ad in the paper all those years ago and never looked back. According to Bill, “I really enjoy driving, it’s kind of one of my pleasures.” He has been driving for most of his life and at 71 years old, he plans to continue driving as long as he’s able to.

The service Bill and WCTA Executive Director Heather Tanner provide is highly valued by riders such as Deborah, “Deb”, who appreciate the convenience, flexibility, and personal touches provided by WCTA. Other riders, such as Josephine, who are legally blind and unable to drive, rely on the shuttle bus and driver’s assistance to help them get around. The bus service is viewed as a close-knit community, with riders and their drivers forming strong bonds through shared experiences, good conversations, and even a few jokes.

A longtime rider of the shuttle bus, Deb highly praises Heather and Bill for their dedication and considers them part of her family. “The hours are just right for me, and I believe for other people as well,” she said. “And then when the farmers market starts up, the bus starts at eleven and runs until three or four so we can go to the farmers market if we want to. Just call and talk to Heather and she’ll work with you – she’s great, I love her and Bill.”

Sitting on the bus as riders board and disembark, it’s not hard to tell that there’s a sense of camaraderie and ease knowing they’re being taken care of and will get to where they need to go. “Everyone on the bus is so friendly,” Josephine said. “We’re like a family almost, we all get to know each other. We have good conversations and jokes on the bus, and we have a good time. It’s the best thing because I don’t know what I’d do otherwise.” She noted that at 77 years old, she has been with the service for decades and agrees that Heather is a great leader and dispatcher and that the riders hope to never lose her.

A recurring theme among riders is a love of both Bill and Heather and a deep appreciation for the services they provide, echoed by Josephine’s statement that Bill comes right up to the door to help her because he knows she’s unsteady on her feet and it’s hard for her to get out of the nonautomatic doors of the building.

As the Executive Director, Heather knows just how important the WCTA bus service is to the Carthage community and said that it is valuable for many that may be alone otherwise due to their children and families moving away for work.

“It’s been a huge service to our community to be able to help them maintain a sense of independence and help with their quality of life,” she said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be getting the food they need, they wouldn’t be doing any self-care, wouldn’t be getting to medical appointments, and we don’t restrict how often they can ride, so I know that that’s been a huge help for people.”

Local services such as the shuttle bus rely on community support and funding to continue operating. Every donation, no matter how small, can make a difference in ensuring that these individuals have the transportation they need to live their lives to the fullest.

United, we can help bridge the transportation gap and support our older and mobility challenged neighbors in rural areas.