Intercity Transit provides lifeline mobility options for individuals living in the Thurston County area. As a service of the agency, Village Vans was created to strengthen their mission of providing and promoting public transportation choices that support an accessible, sustainable, livable, healthy and prosperous community.
About Intercity Transit’s Village Vans Program
Funded by federal and state grants and operating in partnership with local social and public service agencies, Village Vans is an important community asset available to any low-income resident of Olympia, Lacey or Tumwater in need of employment-related transportation for whom taking the bus is difficult.
Participants often need transportation to places like local colleges and universities, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, work sites, childcare facilities and job interviews. Village Vans helps lessen the stress of making it to work or an interview on time.
With service available Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., rides with Village Vans can be scheduled up to 15 days in advance by calling their 24-hour message line at 360-705-5840.
Volunteering and Achieving Success with Intercity Transit’s Village Vans
Village Vans wouldn’t be the success story that it is without the most important aspect of the program: its volunteers in the Driver Training and Job Skills Program.
Volunteers begin by receiving professional driver training. Through this defensive driving training course, drivers are trained how to drive properly while receiving one-on-one training from staff before transporting passengers. With direct support and ongoing training efforts, volunteers learn how to improve their driving skills and safely navigate the community.
In addition to on-the-job driving experience, the program also includes professional training that focuses on communication skills, interview techniques, computer skills, resume and cover letter writing, organizational and interpersonal skills, and internal department job shadowing.
Not only do participants build their professional network and learn how to make positive impressions while job searching, but many quickly go on to get jobs. In fact, they have a 43% higher chance of finding employment than non-volunteers.
Upon enrollment into this professional training program, volunteers are on track to build a career for themselveswith staff support and connections to community resources.
Some volunteers are recruited as interns from several employment support programs such as the South Puget Sound Community College Customized Job Skills Training Course, the WorkFirst Community Jobs work-training program, and the Senior Community Service Employment Programs at WorkSource. Other volunteers are recruited as interns from the broader community.
“This is truly a life changing program,” expresses Izi LeMay, supervisor of Village Vans. Promoted to the supervisor position in February of 2022, Izi knows just how pivotal the Driver Training and Job Skills Program can be. “Volunteering in Village Vans was the start of my career at Intercity Transit. I drove in the program for six months, while employed part time, before I was hired as a coach operator. Now I lead the program and reciprocate the help I received. I’m thankful for the doors that have opened since participating. Through this program, my staff and I can meet everyone where they are and grow from there.”
While each person has their unique strengths, Izi shares how interns can prepare themselves for success as they enter the program. “We’re always excited to welcome individuals willing to put in the effort to succeed both in their personal and professional lives,” explains Izi. “We work with interns on being open about what they’re hoping to gain from the experience and what their learning styles may be. In turn, we listen to what and how interns communicate and adjust the teaching approach to fit their needs.”
Volunteer success stories are a common occurrence as the skills learned are transferrable to countless careers. “Interpersonal skills are vital in any workplace,” Izi elaborates. “Employers are looking for experience to be reflected in prospective resumes, which is why interning can make such a big difference.” One former intern went on to get hired with the Washington Secretary of State, while another became the program manager of a WorkSource Employment program called Journey 2 Jobs. Half of all interns employed in the last three years were hired at Intercity Transit. Volunteers are eligible to apply for internal-only positions in any department. Others have gone on to work in trucking, accounting, substitute teaching, and in real estate.
For those interested in volunteering, there’s comfort in understanding the flexibility of the program. Whether they’re available in the mornings or afternoons, the staff work to accommodate their needs. Additionally, the program’s timeline is not limited, meaning they can stay on for a few weeks, months, or years, or even take a break and come back when the program better fits their schedule. It all depends on their skill development and future career desires.
The Need for Village Vans Volunteers
Village Vans is always in need of drivers as community ridership continues to grow and interns gain employment, subsequently phasing them out of the program. Pre-pandemic, Village Vans had 30 driver interns annually, which is a number Izi would like to reach again. “We’re very proud of all who’ve participated in this program and recognize the powerful changes that can come about as a result of volunteering,” explains Izi. “When we acknowledge transportation and professional skill building as basic needs and offer a sustained solution, our community can overcome cycles of poverty on both fronts.”