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  • Art, Meredith says, is the love of her life.

    Meredith has studied art since age 8, and she’s been a gallery artist for 30 years. She has a fine-arts degree. She has sold paintings over the years, but like many artists, found it difficult to rely on for financial security. She worked office jobs to supplement that income, she says.

    More recently, Meredith has found a way to combine her passion and her job. She works at Aurora Gallery, the oldest art gallery in downtown Vancouver.

    “Now I finally get to implement my degree and my education in a financially stable job that allows me to help other artists and showcase my work and every day just be a part of the art world, which I really appreciate,” Meredith says.

    “Twenty-five years ago when I started out with my (degree), I had no idea what I was going to branch off and do. So it’s nice to be able to come full circle.”

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  • Carolyn is a familiar face around the C-TRAN system, but few people actually know her name. Most people know her as the “bread lady.”

    For years, Carolyn has baked loaves of bread for C-TRAN drivers, customer service representatives and other employees. She started baking for them shortly after she started using the system to get to work. She’s been doing it ever since—much to the delight of those on the receiving end of her treats.

    “It’s very special to me to do this. The bus drivers, if you look into their eyes, it’s like a window to their hearts,” Carolyn says. “It’s my way to show them I care about them. They do work hard for their money.”

    Among her specialties: banana nut bread, zucchini bread with crushed pineapple and pumpkin bread with chocolate chips or craisins. In return, Carolyn mostly gets smiles and hugs. And that’s all the thanks she needs.

    “I don’t ask for money,” Carolyn says. “I do it because I care. I do it because it’s from my heart to their heart.”

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  • John became blind at age 16. The adjustment was difficult at times, he says, but he quickly found himself able to adapt—and thrive. “It was almost like I was supposed to be blind,” John says. But there’s no doubt that losing his eyesight was a turning point.

    “I might as well have been born when that happened, because I’m such a different person.”

    In the years since, John has become an accomplished woodworker. He enjoys brewing his own beer. He’s repaired pianos. And it was through Vancouver’s School of Piano Technology for the Blind that John met his wife Anni, a local artist.

    “I’ve always been kind of adventurous,” John says. “I basically came to the conclusion that if I want to be independent and go around and stuff, I’m going to smash my face into the occasional tree or pole, or have to ask for directions. You just go for it.”

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  • It’s been almost 30 years since Leslie moved to Vancouver with her son, Chris. It’s been 12 years since Chris started using C-TRAN to get to work in downtown Portland.

    Chris, who lives with Down syndrome, rides independently and makes his own way. Leslie, who also works in Portland, rides a different bus. Rick, her husband, often drops them both off at the 99th Street Transit Center.

    “I like the fact that there’s some continuity in drivers,” Leslie says. “I rode (Chris’) bus one day. He doesn’t work on Tuesdays and Fridays. One of those days I was on the bus that he typically takes, and I asked the driver if Chris was usually on his bus, and I thanked him for what he did to keep Chris safe and get him downtown.”

    Leslie chose Vancouver largely because of the school system. She’s also found plenty of support as the parent of a child with disabilities.

    “It’s been extremely rewarding. It is at times scary. We’re 33 years into this, and there are days when I think I’m too old to be parenting. But I feel very blessed. I’m very grateful that we live in this community that’s a little smaller. He probably knows more people in this town than we do.

    “It’s been a really good experience. It’s opened my eyes to a world that I knew nothing about, and I’m grateful for that.”

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  • For Mike, the commute to Portland has evolved over the years. First, he carpooled. Then he drove alone. Then he switched to public transportation about 12 years ago. Last year, he added cycling to the mix.

    “Now I go without the car. I generally ride from home—it’s a couple of miles to Fisher’s Landing Transit Center—take the bus across the river, and then ride across Portland to Swan Island.”

    Mike finds a certain satisfaction in leap-frogging car traffic when he’s traveling by bike. And since he started cycling as part of a month-long challenge last year, it’s become a bigger part of his everyday life.

    “I like it because it’s not just exercise, but it can be used as transportation. I can even run errands on bike; I have a bike trailer I can hitch if I really want to carry a lot of groceries. I’ll do that on occasion instead of driving to the grocery. I also enjoy running, so I try to strike a balance. That was also a reason to continue with relying on transit for part of the commute was basically to leave something in the tank for running. Some people can do all of the above, but it’s relatively new to me.”

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  • Davia moved to Vancouver in 2017 to be closer to family, and because of its access to numerous activities, parks and services. Her son, Brandon, has special needs, and lives with severe autism.

    “I’m a stay-at-home mom. I spend every day just devoted to him and helping him grow.”

    Brandon has shown a particular interest in mechanical things, and how they work. He likes to take things apart and see how they’re put together. Davia homeschools Brandon while working on multiple therapies and skills. She builds their day in 15-minute increments, and she makes every one of them count.

    “It makes me have to plan my entire day out. Everything is very scheduled. I have to really prepare him for transitions. His sensory overload affects everything in his life, so everything is very strategically planned.”

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  • Darla grew up on a family farm near Salem, Ore. Adopted as a child, she grew up with four brothers who were all adopted from different homes. “I’m blessed. Very blessed,” Darla says. She keeps in regular touch with her siblings. But like all of us, she knows the feeling of loss. One day in Vancouver, she found solace on a bus from a driver named Steve.

    “It makes me cry, but my sister just passed away this day, and we got on the bus, and he could see I was sad about it. And so I told him about it, and really helped me with it. He just comforted my son and I, and he’s really made a difference. He’s since retired…”

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  • Tandra remembers her first bus ride to beauty school in downtown Vancouver. She was 18 years old. She’s been a transit user her whole life, largely due to a visual impairment she was born with. It takes some extra effort to plan all of her trips in advance, but Tandra doesn’t take the experience for granted.

    “I’ve always ridden the bus. I love it. It gets me where I’ve got to go. It takes a little longer, but it takes you on adventures, too. You meet all kinds of people on there, their stories, especially if you ride the same bus every day. You kind of get into their life and see what’s going on, and they kind of become a friend on the bus. Although you never see them – you see them on the bus for a half hour.”

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  • Every college student packs a load of personal items when they leave for their first year on campus. Savannah’s list included watering cans, gloves and shears.

    “My room is filled with plants. I have to have nature around me in some way.”

    Gardening is one of Savannah’s many interests. Another passion: Baking, which also happens to be her profession. Savannah makes desserts at a restaurant in the heart of Portland. Occasionally, the two collide.

    “I love gardening; especially the botany side is really fun to bring into cooking and baking. It’s really fun to bring something from both of your hobbies and throw them together.”

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  • Dawn and her husband both work security on the graveyard shift in Portland. They have dinner together, then take the bus from Vancouver toward Portland in the evening. Then they go their separate ways, both starting security shifts at different posts around 11 p.m.

    Dawn is a socialite who loves being around people. And that’s what she loves about security, describing her job as more customer service than anything.

    “You know you’re doing what it takes to help other people. You help a person smile that morning or that evening, and you never know – that could be the only smile that they carry on the rest of the day.”

    Still, the job – and the schedule – can be a grind.

    “We pay bills and get groceries, and that’s pretty much it. Work, eat, sleep is what we do.”

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  • After leaving a construction job, Riley started working as a substitute in special education classrooms. He worked with kids from kindergarten through second grade in Evergreen Public Schools.

    “From there it just kind of took off, and I really enjoyed it. I was really passionate about it. It made me really happy. … I love being able to help out people that have disabilities, and be able to be a happy thing in their life. I love being able to put a smile on their face and make them laugh.”

    Riley now works with special education camps through the city of Vancouver – and so do both of his sisters.

    “It had to have been something like the way we were raised with our parents. They just taught us to be kind, and look out for other people, and put other people before yourself.”

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