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  • Growing up, Rachel was frequently around people with disabilities. Her parents cared for and adopted multiple special-needs children. And her younger brother, Aaron, was born prematurely and lives with an intellectual disability.

    Rachel is grateful for that opportunity. She’s grateful for the experience and perspective it gave her. Now, as an adult, she’s giving her own children that same opportunity as she takes care of Aaron full time. Rachel and her family moved to Ridgefield three years ago, and she now attends nursing school.

    “I love that my kids have the opportunity to be around people with disabilities. There’s so many people who grow up and live their whole lives and never have that experience. And then when they do finally see someone with a disability, it’s kind of jarring, and they don’t know how to interact with that person.”

    Rachel already sees the empathy in her own children that she learned at a young age.

    “When they see other people that are not exactly like them, they’re really good at recognizing that those people are still people, and those people have wants and needs and interests, just like them. I love that.”

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  • Moira proudly calls herself a “fan girl.” Her fandom covers a range of stories, games and TV shows, including the Japanese animated series “Hetalia.” She even dressed as a character from the show at a recent cosplay event.

    That interest also fuels another passion: writing. Moira writes fiction, and draws inspiration from the stories and worlds she immerses herself in. She also finds inspiration in her surroundings – even a bus ride. Moira, a high school senior, started riding C-TRAN after getting a Youth Opportunity Pass through her school.

    “I got that, and started more regularly going out, and started building independence as well.”

    That process has been a positive change, she says, but it hasn’t always been easy.

    “I am not inherently independent. I’ve got my dog. I’ve got my computer. What more do I need?”

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  • For Glenn, love of the outdoors is more than a hobby. It's a passion and a career: He's one of the founders of Columbia Land Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization he continues to lead as executive director.

    It's a passion he's held since he was growing up in New York state.

    "My family, we went hiking, backpacking, spent a lot of time outdoors since I was a kid," Glenn says. "And I came out here to the Northwest in part because I just knew its reputation for being such a beautiful place."

    It was a land trust colleague who got Glenn and others to shift to a car-free commute about five years ago. Glenn found his way to a combination of bicycling and transit to travel between Portland and Vancouver each day. Today, he says, "it's a real disappointment if I have to drive."

    "My quality of life is way up. I'm not getting aggravated sitting on the freeway in heavy traffic. I can just sit quietly, or I can do some work."

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  • Since Kristal moved to Vancouver in March 2017, her time here has already taken some unexpected turns. For work, she's currently serving lunches in Evergreen Public Schools.

    "And I never ever thought I would ever be a lunch lady," Kristal says. "Being a lunch lady, I have one role, which is basically make sure that kid is getting their lunch, and make sure the next one gets theirs."

    Kristal uses public transportation to travel everywhere, and has impressed her grandmother - whom she talks to every day - with how much she's learned about her new home. Kristal moved to Clark County from San Diego for school. She plans to enroll at Clark College. And she's found a stark change of scenery from Southern California.

    "I felt like I was growing up in a bubble, so I kind of wanted to pop that bubble. People are like, 'Oh, what are you running away from?' I'm not running. I'm running to something."

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  • For his entire life, Harry has lived with a seizure disorder. The first seizure he remembers happened at just two years old. When the diagnosis became official, Harry received an important message from his parents.

    “The day that I was diagnosed with epilepsy, they took me home and sat me down in the living room and sent my brother and sister away. And they said, ‘OK, you’ve just been diagnosed, and you’ve just been handed a list of things you can’t do. Try to concentrate on the ones you can.’”

    Harry has always tried to find his niche since then, even if it has evolved over the years. He’s volunteered for numerous local organizations. He’s comforted families in the ICU of a local hospital as a counselor. Now he strives to help people wherever they are. Often, that means sharing some of his own experiences.

    “To help other people, I had to reach inside myself and deal with things that had happened to me. And that was the hard part. Once I got that, though-- it’s very good for me to be able to do that.”

    “It’s extremely fulfilling. But it’s not the ‘sit in the office, tell me your problem’ kind of feeling. It’s just, if I sense somebody needs an outlet, I provide that outlet.”

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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…”

    Read more here...
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