Whatever happened to the blue bus?
Since 1998, a blue 1968 Leyland Double Decker bus has travelled around Sooke, and was initially seen parked at the Evergreen Centre and Sooke Centre Mall.
The bus functioned as a youth outreach project for children and offered a variety of recreational activities to promote the healthy development of children — spiritually, mentally and physically, according to Rick Wismer, director of Bus Ministries.
The project evolved and eventually shifted its focus solely to First Nations children, with permission from the respective communities.
The bus was outfitted with a lounge area, entertainment system, video games and snack bar. Different services were held in and around the bus like sports, arts and crafts, snacks time and bible story readings.
Wismer said he had seen children overcome very troubled circumstances throughout his years of running the program.
However, after over a decade of service, the bus was decommissioned in April 2011 due to expenses related to maintenance and repairs.
According to Wismer, the retirement of the blue bus, formally dubbed Refuge Bus, was met with dismay by the many children who participated in weekly programs held in the vessel.
With many of them asking ‘What’s Next?’
The Bus Ministries is currently fundraising for a new bus, which will be outfitted in a similar fashion to its predecessor. The project is estimated to cost $238,000, which Wismer hopes will be raised by August 2012.
The bus in question, which will officially be named the Blue Bus, is a 1998-2002 Prevost H3-45.
Wismer said the ministry wants to purchase a quality vehicle that will last for several years and achieve the future vision of expanding to other First Nations on southern Vancouver Island.
The program is still currently running on T-Sou-ke Nation, Tseycum and Beecher Bay, with volunteers driving to location in their personal vehicles, toting all equipment and gear along.
The Blue Bus Ministries is holding a fundraising event on June 1 at the Sooke Baptist Church from 7 to 9 p.m.