"It is a marvelous program," says 74-year-old Betty Devasier, who rides on the Out and About buses two or three times a week. "I stopped driving last year. I had been so independent for so many years, I thought, 'Oh, dear, what am I going to do now?' But this program has been life-changing for me.
"We go grocery shopping on Wednesday," Devasier continues, "and then on Friday we go to Wal-Mart, and then after all the shopping is done, we have lunch somewhere. It is fun. You just could not imagine, nor in my opinion could you meet, any nicer people. And when they drop me off at home, the driver takes my packages, puts them on my porch or driveway for me...Oh, I almost forgot, they will take you to the movies in the afternoon."
Though a chunk of the program's $57,000 budget is devoted to paying part-time drivers -- who need class B drivers' licenses and make $10 per hour -- for the shuttle buses, that is the only vehicle-related cost. Maintenance is done by City of Vista mechanics, and the vans themselves have been awarded to the program through grants. A new 16-passenger bus with a wheelchair lift, bought with a grant from the state Department of Transportation, is on order. "We are very fortunate," Dreibelbis says, "because the city of Vista assists us through their vehicle-maintenance department. They help mechanically, when there is anything that breaks down, and that is where we fuel, that is where we get tune-ups, all those kinds of things, so that saves us money."
Dreibelbis and her staff have made presentations to other cities -- including Santee, Poway, and Escondido -- on how to get senior-ride programs up and running. In her presentations she shares anecdotes: "One lady, her daughter lived in Alpine, so she obviously couldn't be shuttling her mother everywhere, and she was watching her mother rapidly decline. Though the mother had been very healthy when she stopped driving, the depression was setting in because she was within four walls all the time. But she started to use our service, and little by little she completely blossomed because she was getting out and about."