Bus damage leaves Sr. Center scrambling

FOREST DALE — The theft of two catalytic converters from the bus at the Brandon Senior Center has left it difficult to pick up seniors throughout the week and to bring meals to many in their homes. 

“It’s a real crime and a shame that someone would do this to our van; a real low blow,” said senior center director Kathy Mathis, who added that they are still providing their services.

“We’re still out there picking people up and delivering lunches to our seniors,” Mathis said, explaining they are “just driving the van as is even though it sounds like a Mack truck! But we can’t leave people at home or without contact with each other and without meals.” She said they deliver about 50 meals to area seniors, host another 35-40 for regular lunches and pack dinners for them to eat at home, and cater to even more throughout the week.

Mathis said the theft occurred sometime between late Saturday and Monday, Nov. 12-14. “Someone was at the Center all day Friday and Saturday till dark. No one was there on Sunday, then the Center was open for business on Monday from 9 am to 5 p.m. and we hadn’t driven the van during that time. On Tuesday, when the bus driver started the bus to pick up folks for the dinner, he noticed a loud noise coming from underneath — sounding like the muffler had fallen off. The bus driver, as well as a couple of the dinner volunteers, took a flashlight to underneath the bus and noticed that someone had sawed off the catalytic converters from under the bus! 

“We figured this must have occurred on Sunday, as no one was around the Center on that day. We picked up everyone anyway on Tuesday to bring them to the Center (sounding like a race car revving its engine the whole time.) The Board President called the police to report the theft and gave them a detailed description, called the insurance agency (who said the bus wasn’t covered as we only had comprehensive), and Green Mountain Garage for an appointment to fix the bus.

“The next morning (Wednesday), the driver took the bus to an area service center and we were told that the bus could not be fixed… With the rust forming under the carriage, it wouldn’t be worth the thousands it would cost to fix it. They suggested junking it.”

Mathis said the Brandon Police Department is working on all leads and have continuously been in contact with the Senior Center, “but we’re not holding out any hope,” she said. “This means we are in the market for another bus as it is a source of transportation to those seniors who no longer can drive. Coming to the Center not only helps them nutritionally, but socially, which is so important for our elders.”

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