All aboard as Silver Chain bus donation gives community members back their freedom

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Residents celebrate in Walpole. RIGHT: WCRC, manager Cherie Smith with care aide Lucila Broun. Main picture: Walpole Weekly
Camera IconResidents celebrate in Walpole. RIGHT: WCRC, manager Cherie Smith with care aide Lucila Broun. Main picture: Walpole Weekly Credit: Walpole Weekly

Many Walpole residents will once again be able to travel to neighbouring towns after a bus donation from Silver Chain.

But making the donation viable required more than a bit of community spirit.

“This is where communities really come together, it’s a fabulous story, it really is,” Walpole Community Resource Centre manager Cherie Smith said.

Running from the mid-2000s, the Walpole community bus provided residents with transport to Manjimup, Albany and Denmark.

With fundraising by locals and support from Silver Chain, the bus service became an important part of the community until it was brought to a halt just a few years ago.

“In Walpole you can’t buy bedsheets, you can’t buy kettles or microwaves. You have to go to Albany or Manjimup,” Ms Smith said.

“There are an awful lot of people who can’t drive and so for those people this is their only lifeline.”

The way back for the bus started with the Walpole CRC looking at ways to revive the bus program.

With encouragement and consultation from the Shire of Manjimup, inquiries led to a community meeting with Silver Chain.

Listening to the community’s concerns in person, Silver Chain representatives offered to donate a bus to the community for $1.

But questions remained over how the project would run. Initially, the Walpole CRC asked the community for a $240 annual membership fee to cover bus maintenance and use.

Then, the Walpole Op Shop decided to donate $1200 a year to subsidise costs, halving the yearly cost of each membership to $120.

Meanwhile, the community lined up to show their support with all 12 memberships sold in just one day and six drivers also volunteering. “One day I just had streams of people going through my door going yep, ‘I want a membership’, ‘I want to volunteer to be a bus driver’, ‘where do you need help?’” Ms Smith said.

“I’m just so proud of our community.”

With the service expected to restart in September, the bus will soon be available for bookings.

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