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Chicago Ridge seniors take to the road

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Seniors in Chicago Ridge are thrilled to have a brand new and more spacious bus taking them to doctor’s appointments, stores and social gatherings in and near the village.

Gone is the old seniors bus with room for eight passengers. In its place is a new bus with room for 20 and with a lift for wheelchairs.

The bus provides free transportation for Chicago Ridge seniors who can’t drive or would rather not be behind the wheel.

Rose Lewandowski, 84, who takes the bus to Chicago Ridge Friendship Club meetings every second and fourth Monday in the village hall, enjoys the new ride.

“With the old one, they sometimes had to make two or three trips (for one event). Since we’ve got the 20-person bus, it’s much better,” Lewandowski said.

Seniors have to call in advance the previous day to schedule pickup times.

“There are limits where we can go — we can’t go to downtown (Chicago) — but we can go to places within five miles (of Chicago Ridge).

“I use it all the time for the doctor, shopping, the hair dresser. And it costs nothing to ride,” Lewandowski said.

Chicago Ridge resident Michael LaBeau, 57, enjoys driving the new bus.

He’s been driving the senior bus the past six years.

“This one is more convenient for the seniors. There’s room for 20 without a wheelchair, 18 with a wheelchair. It handles fine, and it’s very comfortable for them,” LaBeau said.

The plush seats are comfy, seniors said.

“It’s like a Cadillac,” Lewandowski said of the Ford 450.

The senior bus is available 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, LaBeau said.

Village Clerk Aurora Melnyk, who is in charge of the program, said there are some guidelines.

Seniors should call by 3 p.m. the prior day to schedule a pickup time.

If planning for a Monday or the day after a holiday, they should call on the previous business day. You have to be 62 or older to use the bus.

While the bus can take seniors where they need to go, there are some locations reserved for certain days.

For example, Mondays are for the senior club meetings at the village hall, banks and the public library. Tuesdays are for grocery shopping at Tony’s and at Shop ‘n’ Save.

On Wednesday, it’s Aldi’s, Jewel, Chicago Ridge Mall and The Commons. Thursdays are for hair appointments and the Fairplay grocery store. On Fridays, more hair appointments and Walmart.

“I can’t believe how crowded the bus is for Walmart on Fridays. It seems that everybody wants to go there,” Lewandowski said.

Melnyk said there are 73 seniors who use the bus on a regular basis.

Mary Vrhovnik, 88, is another fan of the senior bus program that was started in 1990 by former Mayor Gene Siegel.

That six-person van was purchased with profits from RidgeFest, the village’s popular summer event.

“It’s wonderful because he can take more people to one place. I take it for shopping, doctors, hospitals, whatever,” Vrhovnik said while waiting for a ride home after a club meeting at the village hall.

Another regular rider, Alberta Fernandez, 82, appreciates LaBeau’s attention to detail and safe driving.

“Mike is a wonderful person. He’s helpful,” Fernandez said. “It’s a beautiful bus.”



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