For more information about the shower bus and other efforts by Give Someone a Chance, visit the group’s website at https://givesomeoneachancetc.org or contact them at (209) 588-8377.

Brook Walsh stepped off Give Someone a Chance’s shower bus wearing fresh, clean clothes and a smile spread across her face.

Walsh, who said she’s homeless, was among the first of eight people to shower on the bus at its official launch on Wednesday in the parking lot of the former hospital on South Forest Road.

“It helps us stay clean, but also socialize and interact with other people,” she said. “Some of us have issues with that, but it kind of makes us.”

Some in the group encouraged the others to shake their wet hair as they stepped off the bus.

Everyone who took a shower first had to sign a release waiver on a touch-screen computer that would also ask them to check a box if they also needed help with case management from GSAC.

The local nonprofit was founded in 2010 by retired Jamestown couple Hazel and Dick Mitchell to provide aid to the homeless.

Donald Ronalter, a GSAC board member who helped design the bus, explained the electronic sign-in would create a record for the organization to use to seek out people who say they need additional help.

They were then taken to a trailer provided by Nancy’s Hope, a community center and boutique thrift store in Columbia, that was filled with men’s and women’s clothes, shoes, blankets, sleeping bags, food and other supplies.

Each person was able to fill a large plastic bin with what they needed.

Nancy Scott, founder of Nancy’s Hope, said the trailer will caravan with the GSAC bus to all of the locations where showers will be provided.

“I just put the word out and people donate,” Scott said of how she keeps the trailer stocked. “If we do this every week, we’ll need a lot more donations.”

After picking out what they needed, each person waited for their turn to board the bus and shower.

Each were given one towel, one wash cloth, one pair of socks, underwear and flip-flops to wear while in the showers, while shampoo and soap is provided in the stalls.

The time allowed in the shower room is 15 minutes, which includes seven minutes of running water.

People are given a “goodie bag” upon exiting the bus that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving supplies and other hygiene-related items.

Homeless and disabled U.S. Army veteran Benjamin Barnow proclaimed upon exiting the shower, “That was delicious!”

Barnow led a clean-up effort at homeless camps off Stockton Road earlier this year that filled more than two, 20-yard trash bins that each can hold up to 3 tons of material.

He and his fiancée, Glenda LaBonty, helped corral some of the people from the camps to use the showers on Wednesday.

LaBonty said she believes more will start to use them on a regular basis as word gets around.

Jerry Lewis, of Sonora, is also a disabled veteran and member of the GSAC board who were among more than 10 volunteers helping out with the launch.

Lewis said his goal through working with GSAC is to help people find employment.

“We have a lot of homeless veterans here,” he said. “My goal is to help put people to work.”

Troy McNulty, who used the shower bus on Wednesday, said he became homeless in the early 2000s because of mental health disorders and other issues.

McNulty called the bus a “great service,” which he said is generally lacking in Tuolumne County.

“Down in Modesto, you can go to a shower truck, or Salvation Army, and they’ve got a lot of mental health (services),” he said. “Here, they don’t have anything.”

The showers were supposed to start at 9 a.m. but were delayed about an hour due to a leak that was quickly fixed after the arrival of Waters Plumbing, Heating and Air, based in Sonora.

Dick Mitchell, a retired engineer, said some hardware problems were to be expected on a prototype vehicle, but overall he was pleased with the small number they experienced on the first day.

The bus was donated to the couple by the county for transportation, but they got the idea for the shower bus from a similar concept in Modesto.

They spent over a year designing and then constructing the bus with the GSAC board and a design team that included Dick Mitchell, Craig Hempler, Roger Lindahn, and Ronalter, all of whom were present Wednesday.

Funding came from the Mitchells, other members of the GSAC board, private individuals, and a number of businesses and organizations that donated money, supplies and labor.

The group’s effort also received a donation of more than $22,000 from the Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California and an $8,000 grant from the Sonora Area Foundation.

Dick Mitchell said it took 10 people 40 minutes to set-up the bus on Wednesday, though the plan is to have two paid employees and two volunteers running it on most days.

Within six weeks, they hope to have the bus running five days a week.

“We’ll have trained staff, volunteers, and the routine will be down,” he said.

A woman approached the group on Wednesday and asked how to volunteer, so Hazel Mitchell took her information and interviewed her on the spot.

Hazel Mitchell said she’s interviewed several candidates for manager and assistant manager positions that they plan to pay at $16 and $13 an hour, respectively, for 30 hours per week.

The next showers will be given from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the same location, 1 S. Forest Road.

Other locations will be the David Lambert Community Drop-In Center in Sonora, Christian Heights Church in Jamestown, and the United Methodist Church in Tuolumne.

Hazel Mitchell said the group plans to release a schedule this week on its website.

“For me, the comments we got were incredible,” she said about the launch. “I asked them to spread the word because we want to help as many people as we can.”

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.





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