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Omnitrans is my limousine

Sondra, 1st prize winner in the Omnitrans Valentine's Day photo contest

RIDER PROFILE:  Sondra is a 50-year old single military mom whose son is a Marine recruiter and Iraqi veteran. A new grandma-to-be, she is eagerly looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild in April. She volunteers as a ticket usher at the Lewis Family Playhouse in Victoria Gardens. She is also a volunteer at the Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, where she is involved in a ministry group focused on gang prevention. It is a cause she feels passionate about. “We try to get these kids to open their hearts, stop killing people and doing drugs. We help find them jobs and resources.”

Sondra used to be a preschool teacher before her disabilities brought her career to an end. She suffers from vertigo and dementia, has arthritis throughout her body and nerve damage in one leg.

“I have good days and bad days,” laughs Sondra. “Every once in a while I walk like the Bride of Frankenstein, but most of the time people wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with me. There are a lot of people like me who have hidden disabilities and are embarrassed by them. It can be very humiliating. Sometimes you need special accommodations or extra help with something and people don’t understand why because your disability isn’t obvious.”

Sondra has been riding the bus since 1978. At first it was just occasionally, when her car would break down. Now she rides because she enjoys it. She takes about 5 different buses a day and jokingly refers to Omnitrans as her “limousine.”

“Every morning I wonder who I’m going to meet that day,” she says. “I have this mom energy that makes people want to talk to me, so I get to meet a lot of different people on the bus. Sometimes it’s a homeless girl. Sometimes it’s a family or someone on their way to work. I try to have a smile and a kind word for everyone. Little things like that can mean the world to a person.”

Sondra knows this firsthand. Her favorite drivers, Doris and Albert always give her a smile and wave whenever they drive by her on the street. “They really make you feel special. They have compassion for people, love their jobs and always have a smile for you. When your driver waves at you and you’re not even getting on the bus, it means so much. You will always go back to Omni because of that. You can always find other rides, but those drivers are the ones that keep bringing you back.”

When asked what her life would be like without public transit, Sondra is emotional. “I worry about that sometimes. If Omni wasn’t around, I’d miss it like crazy. I would feel like I lost a best friend. The good drivers make me feel loved and give me the strength to go on when I’m having a bad day. They are like family to me.”

–Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

How one mom used Omnitrans to change her life

Kathleen and her two children

When Kathleen Brink became disabled due to seizures 3 years ago, her world fell apart. Her doctor would no longer allow her to drive, she lost her job as a mortgage underwriter and she was in the middle of an ugly divorce and custody battle for her son and daughter, ages five and nine. She had no idea how she was going to get the kids back and forth to school or do the simple things she had always taken for granted like grocery shopping or running errands. One day she was sitting in the law office, crying and feeling completely helpless, when her lawyer pointed out that she did have another option. She could ride the bus.

Kathleen had never ridden a bus before. She’d had her own car since she was 16-years old, and the prospect of relying on public transit for everything she needed felt impossible and overwhelming. Still, she managed to push aside her anxiety to research the Omnitrans routes she needed and to work out a schedule.

“At first the kids were mortified to be going to school on a public bus,” laughed Kathleen. “This was a whole new experience for them. Now it’s like being a part of a little family. We know all the regular riders, and we all look out for each other. Paul, our driver, is a great guy and always watches after the kids. In a few more years my oldest starts high school and she’s really looking forward to taking the Omnitrans bus to school with her friends. It’s evidently the cool kid thing to do!”

Now Kathleen and her family take the bus and train wherever they need to go. There’s no car payment, no gas tank to fill, no insurance fees to worry about, and she likes not having to battle the traffic. Her life has changed in other ways as well.

“This was a lifestyle that was forced on me, but I decided early on to just embrace it and make it work,” said Kathleen. “During my first year of riding the bus, I lost 100 pounds. I was walking and getting out more and living healthier. It really made me see the world differently. I was never a big ‘green’ person before, but it actually felt good to know I had lessened my footprint on the earth. Now I’ve even taken it a step further and gone vegetarian!”

She added, “I love Omnitrans. Without you guys, I would have lost custody of my kids and would never have been able to maintain my independence. I’m healthier and more active than I was before. I‘ve also gotten to know our little group of regular riders and feel more connected to my community. You’ve made it possible for us to enjoy life in ways we never would have imagined.”

–Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely reposted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org