Challenge Grants Help Make Washington More Livable for All

Posted on 11/30/22 by Chris Thomas

The decision to give up driving is fraught with concerns—the primary one, of course: “How will I get around?”

In the sprawling Seattle area, there are new options for older residents of Bainbridge Island, funded by a 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant.

The Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center used a $12,500 award to launch a pilot transportation program, combining use of its 21-passenger bus with the services of another nonprofit, Island Volunteer Caregivers. Together, they’re able to offer individual rides to appointments, shopping and activities, as well as to coordinate group outings.

The initiative is one of four projects in Washington funded by AARP this year. The grants are aimed at making communities more livable by improving accessibility, diversity, civic engagement and public spaces.

For Mary Campbell, 87, the new transportation options serving Bainbridge Island have been a godsend. She stopped driving three years ago, and says she has struggled since then to navigate a regional bus and ferry system designed primarily for commuters heading to downtown Seattle.

Campbell says even making a trip to the supermarket has psychological benefits.

“I tend to be a bit of a loner, and I find that when I’m out, I’m constantly bumping into people and some little exchange goes on, just a few words, and that’s very good for me,” she says. “I feel young again.” 

It’s exactly what Reed Price, the Bainbridge senior center executive director, says his organization had in mind when it applied for the grant.

He says drivers have taken people shopping and gone to Clear Creek Park with the volunteer caregivers’ group for walks on the trail system. “It’s got the added benefits of exercise and socialization,” he adds.

Price says some of the grant money was used to train and license an additional bus driver, allowing more group outings. He hopes to expand the service.

For Campbell, the pilot transportation project could not have come too soon.

“I practically lived in my car when I was still driving,” she says. “There are so many things I need to do. Having help getting around is really important for people.”

Amanda Frame, AARP Washington outreach director, says there has been an uptick in community-driven grant applications along with fewer from government and academia. “It feels very neighbor-helping- neighbor this year, which I think is wonderful.”

The trend is reflected in the other winning projects for 2022.

Quilcene: A $29,082 grant helped Count Me In for Quilcene, a nonprofit that’s building an accessible walking trail through this Olympic Peninsula town, with kiosks along the way featuring local artists’ work and historical information.

Cusick: The Kalispel Tribe of Indians received a $9,805 grant to give artistic face-lifts to 10 utility box covers in this northeastern Washington community. Designed by residents, the new covers honor the Kalispel Tribe’s history and culture.

Cosmopolis: In Grays Harbor County on the coast, volunteers used a $28,325 grant to add a covered area, picnic tables and accessible ramps and benches to Highland Park.

Find more information at aarp.org/communitychallenge.

AARP Community Challenge

This story is provided by AARP Washington. Visit the AARP Washington page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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