Volunteer Wietse Schaafsma has been a driver for the Operation OUTING bus for more than six years, and at this time, is the only driver, as the years have taken their toll in health issues, disability, death and other conditions.
Wietse wears other hats for the organization as well, serving in various ways, and is very concerned about Operation OUTING bus program’s lack of drivers, which threatens the continuation of the service that allows residents to participate in the community activities and events.
Meet Wietse (the pronunciation rhymes with “pizza,” minus the “p”) Schaafsma, who graciously consented to share his concern and offer others the opportunity to contribute some of their time to this very worthy organization, which adds so much to the lives of others, Operation OUTING.
“Operation OUTING (Operation Undertaking Transportation Involving Nursing home Guests) is a charitable organization,” Wietse said. “It provides transportation for nursing home and retirement home residents to Evergreen Outreach, but also to lots of other places, to get them out of the four walls of their apartments/rooms.
“It was established in 1982 by Phyllis Rames, who assembled a crew of volunteers to make it possible to get these residents to Evergreen Outreach. Both Evergreen Outreach and Operation OUTING are non-profit organizations, but they are separate organizations,” he said.
“Evergreen Outreach was also started by Phyllis. She realized the program was social and the religious program was there, but people had a hard time getting to it, so that’s when Operation OUTING was started.
“There was a long list of directors and drivers, but since then a lot of them have retired, or passed on, as you can imagine over many years.”
“I am working to recruit drivers for the organization,” he said.
“It is a volunteer job. Sometimes people ask me what it pays – it pays in a lot of gratitude from the residents, there is no monetary compensation,” he said.
“I have been driving for six years and right now, I am the only driver,” he said. “The bus is a 16-passenger shuttle bus, like you see at the airports. It is easy to drive.
“It would be very helpful to have a few more drivers, so we could trade off, month by month, week by week, or trip by trip. All of that is easy to arrange.
About the Trips
“First of all, the Evergreen Outreach is a regular Monday program and as of Jan. 1, it will be the first Monday of every month, instead of every Monday, as it is now.
There are also our shopping trips that usually end up at a restaurant, often to Effingham,” Wietse said. “We’ve taken the bus to the minor league ball games and to Casey, the home of the largest rocking chair in the world, the largest pencil, wooden shoes, largest chimes … lots of things to see in Casey that you would never think about,” he said.
“We have been to the Williamsburg Cemetery, Eckert’s Orchard, and a lot of times we just take scenic cruises along country roads and see the spring blossoms or fall colors, just to see the outdoors. And those trips usually end up at a Dairy Queen.
“And as a compensation, the driver usually gets a lunch paid for or a Dairy-Queen treat, and these trips are fun.
“For one thing, these people get out of their four walls of their apartment, they get outside and go somewhere, and they are in a good mood. Sometimes, they sing on the bus, and though there is the saying, ‘Don’t talk to the driver,’ I don’t take that too literally. These are fun trips.
“The driver doesn’t have to do anything, but drive and operate the wheelchair lift. There is always plenty of staff to care for the residents,” he said.
“Activity directors plan the destinations, and sometimes they say they don’t really know where to go, to just find some destinations, so, for the road trips. I just kind of think of places to go.”
And Speaking for the Residents
“These people that we take out on bus trips, most of them don’t have anyone else to take them out, maybe they don’t have family here. It’s their only means to get out and I remind myself how would I feel if I was in that situation. If I ever got into a situation like that, I would want to be able to get out, so I’m helping people to get out now.”
“Many of us don’t think, or want to believe, that we will end up in a nursing home, so despite of what we want, the fact is that many of us will end up in a nursing home or extended care. I hate to think that I would never get out, so I’m helping these people get out now,” he said.
“We often forget these people, because we don’t see them around town, but these are people who have lived their entire lives in the community, raised their families, ran businesses, helped make the community what it is. They deserve to be cared for socially, as well as physically,” Wietse said.
If You are Interested
Drivers are required to obtain a CDL license.
“It isn’t the big CDL license that semi-truck drivers have,” he said,” It is easy to pass and the cost will be reimbursed by Operation OUTING. “
You may contact Wieste by calling him at 283-1202, or texting or calling him on his cell phone, 322-1094.