New van service in Auburn helps seniors and the disabled get where they need to go

Mike Saftich gets seniors and the disabled where they need to go. - Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter
Mike Saftich gets seniors and the disabled where they need to go.
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

Whenever Wolf Kotenberg needs the Hyde Shuttle van, as he did last Tuesday morning, it is there waiting for him in front of MultiCare Auburn Medical Center.

And when driver Mike Saftich spots Kotenberg there in his wheelchair, he hustles out of the van and wheels him onto the lift. Once he's got him inside, and secure, it's a quick ride to Kotenberg's home near Dick Scobee Elementary School.

By now, Kotenberg, in treatment at MAMC to save his left leg from diabetes-related complications, says the free service, "is my lifeline."

Senior Services, a nonprofit agency serving older adults and their loved ones in Washington State, introduced the service in Auburn on Nov. 4 to help seniors 55 years of age and older and disabled folks of all ages get where they need to go.

"We have a number of people that we see every week, every day, depending on their schedule," said Saftich, a Maple Valley native. "We bring people from home to the senior center, we take them grocery shopping, to their hair appointments, to their medical appointments ..."

"There aren't many limits, as long as it's a pick up within the city limits and a drop off within the city limits," Saftich added.

There are no applications to fill out and no in-person eligibility screening requiring prospective riders to demonstrate their disabilities. All riders have to do is register by phone at (206) 727-6262.

Once they have registered, they may ask for service up to 30 days in advance along two routes in Auburn: one north of State Route 18; and one south of it, including Auburn city limits inside Pierce County.

The shuttles are lift-equipped for people like Kotenberg who struggle to use stairs or who depend on a mobility aid.

"Most of the people we see are at a point where they just can't drive anymore," Saftich said. "You can see they've got the spirit and the spunk, but they're just like, 'My eyes are worn out, I can't see anymore, or I don't feel comfortable anymore, so I've parked the car, or the kids have encouraged me to park the car,' and they found us to provide the transportation."

Kotenberg learned about the service from the Auburn Senior Activity Center.

"They knew all about it," Kotenberg said.

Although the shuttles are free, donations are welcomed.

In partnership with King County Metro, Senior Services operates the Hyde Shuttle vans from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Senior Services' Transportation Program has 38 shuttles on the road serving cities like Burien, Des Moines, Normandy Park, Renton, Federal Way, SeaTac, Tukwila, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, the Snoqualmie Valley and Seattle.

"Basically, we consider ourself as a personalized transportation alternative to public transportation," said Cindy Zwart, director of Senior Services Transportation Program in Seattle. "It's a community shuttle; all our vans stay within their neighborhoods to increase mobility within the neighborhood. It's not meant to replace King County Metro."

Saftich enjoys his job.

"The biggest thing is when you hear you little old ladies say, 'I can't drive anymore, and you get me to grocery shopping.' It makes me feel pretty good to know we're providing a service that helps people do the things that we all need in life," Saftich said.

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