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Ban ends, and he's got a ticket to ride page 2
George Lewis found a way to get back on the FRED bus and to get "his freedom back"

 FRED driver Louis Williams uses a lift to help George Lewis board at the Fredericksburg Shopping Center.
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Date published: 1/5/2013

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His caseworker with the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board searched for a slot for him in a group home. It took nine years, but in 2011, Lewis got settled in a Fredericksburg home with three other men.

Lewis has nursing assistants who help him get dressed and fed each morning and evening, and he's on his own after that.

That's how he likes it, he said in February 2012, when he was featured in a story in The Free Lance-Star. It detailed how he rode his wheelchair through intersections of U.S. 1 and along city streets to reach his destination when he couldn't ride the bus anymore.

Mary Lou Nissim-Sabat, whose agency supervises his health care, is happy Lewis is riding FRED again.

"He has his freedom back," she said.

She talked with friends, including a lawyer, and initially researched disability regulations for Lewis.

"I have to admit I kind of let it go because I could tell he was so determined to do it on his own," Nissim-Sabat said. "George is one-of-a-kind in being very determined and very dogged when he wants to achieve something."

A COURTEOUS RIDER

Lewis got a letter from Kathleen Beck, FRED's director, agreeing that circumstances changed and she looked forward to him using the system again.

The letter arrived Dec. 12, and he rode the bus once before Christmas. Then, Lewis decided to wait until holiday crowds had thinned to go shopping again.

On Friday, he set out for the Central Park Walmart with list in hand.

He called FRED beforehand and let the dispatcher know a wheelchair-bound passenger was waiting at the Fredericksburg Shopping Center bus stop.

He was not required to call, but did so out of courtesy. Likewise, Lewis apologized to three other people at the bus stop for the time it took to get him onboard.

Loading took almost 15 minutes. Driver Louis Williams lowered the wheelchair lift and directed Lewis to maneuver his chair so he was seated squarely on the device.

Then, the two worked to get the chair into the limited space in the back of the bus. After several three-point turns, Lewis was in place, and Williams attached four floorboard hooks to the chair to secure him, as well as an over-the-shoulder seat belt.

At Walmart, Williams let off other riders at the bus stop and drove to the parking lot to unload Lewis. Exiting went faster, then Williams walked with Lewis to the sidewalk and wished him well.

Lewis thanked him and waved goodbye.

Then he was on his way.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
Email: cdyson@freelancestar.com


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INSPIRATION is an occasional series about people who encourage others with their kindness, courage or perseverance.