Senior center receives $15,000 from USDA

The Sequim Senior Activity Center's bus was ready to fall apart.

"It's quite old and we had a lot of people complain about the seats," said center trips coordinator Kendra Donelson of the 19-seat bus, which had 265,000 miles on it.

The center was collecting donations to raise the more than $100,000 a new bus would cost and had raised nearly all of it when donations reached a standstill.

That's when the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant program came to the rescue and awarded the center a $15,000 grant, the first government grant the center has received, allowing them to purchase a brand new 28-seat 2009 Odyssey XL, which can fit two wheelchairs.

A little-known division of the USDA, Rural Development works to increase economic opportunity and improve quality of life for residents in rural areas, such as Sequim.

According to Rural Development public information coordinator Philip Eggman, the group has invested more than $90 billion since 2001, mostly for home ownership, business development and technology infrastructure in rural areas. At the end of each fiscal year, Eggman said, the group tries to distribute as much money as it can to different areas and organizations.

The center uses the bus primarily to take members on trips across the area, many of which are in Seattle or Tacoma, said Donelson, but the board members also use it when several of them go to an event together.

"Rural communities are more than just agriculture," said Rural Development state director Jon DeVaney. "We want to make sure they're taken care of in other ways."

For the Sequim Senior Activity Center members and administrators, the bus means a better way to take more people around the area.

"This bus has been a long time coming," said board president Margaret Cox. "We are so happy and so grateful."

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