The gift of getting around, Bus Buddy program


Out and About on Day Trips  

It’s a gift really. Do you hesitate to make a day trip to Ocean Shores, Tacoma, Seattle, or even locally by car? You can get there and back by bus, and Bus Buddies has a (free) hosted service utilizing volunteers to help. Let Bus Buddies facilitate an outing of friends, family, or another small group to see a museum, go shopping or attend an event. Examples of where they take people with the bus: The Puyallup Fair, Thurston County Fair, museums in Tacoma, restaurants, IKEA, Centralia Antiques Tour, Pike Place Market, Westport Winery, and the Mermaid Museum.  

The larger program  

Day trips are a side-project of their larger program, funded by the Department of Transportation, to help people age 16+ use the bus - those who don’t need Dial-A-Lift – but can use help to start or expand their use of the public bus system.  

Bus Buddy logo from volunteer’s backpack. May 31, 2023.
Bus Buddy logo from volunteer’s backpack. May 31, 2023.

Volunteer powered  

Currently, nine volunteers provide personalized support showing bus riders how to get to new destinations, transfer to other buses at the Olympia and Lacey Transit Centers, and connect with other regional services like Lewis, Mason, and Grays Harbor counties, and even up to Pierce (Tacoma Mall) and King County for shopping or medical appointments, even to SeaTac to catch or return from a plane trip.  

The talented Scott Schoengarth, has, in retirement, operated the Bus Buddy program for 7 of its 9 years in operation with his team of faithful volunteers. Read about Scott’s talents and interesting life in the article on his Bus Buddy program, June 1, 2023.
The talented Scott Schoengarth, has, in retirement, operated the Bus Buddy program for 7 of its 9 years in operation with his team of faithful …

Scott is in charge  

Bus Buddies is a program of Catholic Community Services and Program Coordinator Scott Schoengarth, has operated the Bus Buddy program for seven of its nine years in operation with his team of faithful volunteers. Schoengarth lives in Olympia and is retired from Sunset Life Insurance Company and the state’s Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. He has a great time with his team, as they serve community members and “table” events around the county to share information with the public about the program.  

The gift of song  

Schoengarth is also a tenor vocalist for and a volunteer representative of Entertainment Explosion and at some events he can serve double duty, promoting these two favorite charities. Entertainment Explosion (501(c)(3) is a group of community members aged 50+, who have performed at the Washington Performing Arts Center, elder care facilities, fairs, the farmer’s market, park events, and other venues around the South Sound since 2006. Through their 13 annual benefit concerts (ending when Covid hit) at The Washington Center alone, “A Really Big Shoe”, they've donated over $352,000 to schools in Thurston and Mason counties to support homeless children and youth.  

More about Scott:  

Schoengarth was born in Burbank CA, whose father Bruce was a film and sound editor on shows like the original Star Trek, Lassie, Mork and Mindy, Mannix, Hawaii 5-0, and many more. Graduating from California State University Northridge in 1973, Scott was a news and sports writer at radio station KFWB on Hollywood Blvd., and KMPC on Sunset Blvd. He moved to Olympia in 1981 and worked for Sunset Life for almost 20 years, where he devised and ran all sales contests and conventions for their agents. He often traveled to places like Hawaii (all the islands), Mexico, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Hong Kong, and over half the states. After Sunset Life moved to Kansas City, he went to work for the Department of Health as the media director for the state’s Tobacco Prevention and Control program. He finally retired in 2015, and a year later took over the Bus Buddy program.

Back to the bus – try it!  

Why haven’t you tried the bus system in Thurston County? Is it the cost? No worries, it’s free.  

Is it because the routes are confusing or mysterious? That’s where Bus Buddies come in, to help you figure out how to use the system, figure out transfers and even go with you to help you make sure. If you use the bus already but want to try a new destination, that’s good too! The assistance is one-on-one.  

You can also use the online trip planner, for route guidance or call Intercity transit at 360-786-1881, but Bus Buddies, operated by volunteers, has more time to help you sort through whatever your questions and issues might be. Call: 360-688-8832.  

Do you think you might not qualify? If you are 16 or older and would like help, you qualify!  

You know it's the right thing to do: save money on gas, help the environment, reduce traffic, and ease the wear and tear on roads. If you don’t drive, it can get tiresome depending on others for a ride. Maybe you have other reasons too, health or finances. Or maybe you just want to be prepared and confident if you need it in the future – it’s all good! Use the bus!   

You Too Can Volunteer  

It’s a fun volunteer gig too. “Bus Buddy volunteers have a great time, Scott commented. “Once they sign on, they stay.” (Currently, on average, Bus Buddy volunteers have a tenure of over 3 years.) “They have fun and they help people!” If you would like to help people or at least explore this service possibility, contact Scott at 360-688-8832 or

Shirley Stirling, of Lacey, writes about good things people in Thurston County are doing. If you’d like to nominate someone to be profiled, contact her at or comment below.


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  • KarenM

    This is a wonderful free service for our community. If you know someone who could benefit from using the bus for their transportation needs tell them about this! They may be hesitant to try the bus or worried about making transfers.

    I especially appreciate the volunteers who provide the one-on-one help. I have met some of these volunteers and they always impress me with the joy they bring to helping people.

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