Companis Worker Lorraine Pidgeon stands next to the All Aboard entrance near the Everett waterfront.
Walking through the front doors of Everett’s All Aboard is like entering a sunny and warm ecosystem. Smiles abound and everyone looks happy to be here. There are multiple art projects in progress and plenty of laughter and chatter.
All Aboard is a day center for adults with developmental disabilities. Participants come here for the camaraderie and the organized activities.
“We’re not vocational or educational,” says Heather Wandler, the program manager at All Aboard. “We’re just fun and games. Our participants get to come here and be themselves and they get to help each other out. If the whole world worked like this, it would be an amazing place because they lift each other up and take such good care of each other.”
All Aboard participants working on their autumn-themed art projects.
That theme of friends helping friends runs across all activities, says Heather. “Participants fill in the gaps for each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “If someone needs their juice box opened, instead of having a staff member or a volunteer help out, we wait for another participant to go over there, even if it takes a couple of extra minutes. We really try to give them that space and let them be active in this community.”
Companis Worker Lorraine Pidgeon understands that well. She volunteers at All Aboard on Fridays, helping out with the weekly bingo game which is very popular. “I assist anyone who needs help with daubing. But it’s fun watching them help each other. They are very, very kind about that.”
Lorraine hit the ground running, Heather says. “Right away, she was connecting with participants and making personal connections.”
All Aboard’s “stage door” leading to the performance room.
Like bingo, karaoke also is a big draw at All Aboard. “It’s really important for our participants to have the opportunity to get up on stage and let their light shine,” says Heather. “Some even request backup dancers and the other participants will get up on stage and dance with them.”
After a career in the public schools and at the U.S. Postal Service, Lorraine was looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity after retiring. She saw a Companis flier at a cafe in Everett and followed up with Tia Lawson who manages our volunteer program in Snohomish County. From there, the two discussed Lorraine’s interests and background which led to Lorraine’s placement at All Alboard.
“I’ve worked in special education over the years. And my little sister had Down Syndrome, so this seemed like a good fit. And it really is!”
All Aboard was founded in 2003 by Gene and Marie Rogoway for their special needs son, Mike, and his friends. After Mike and his friends finished high school, it was a struggle to find activities and ways to socialize. All Aboard started out with bowling and art and has grown from there. Even the ages of the participants have grown, with a multigenerational mix currently ranging from 18 to 83.
“The oldest participant I’ve talked to so far is 71,” says Lorraine. “And I start to think about the history of some of these folks and what they’ve been through. And it’s also interesting to hear about what many of them are doing now. A lot of them have part-time jobs. This is where they come to have fun.”
Lorraine says her advice to anyone who is interested in volunteering is to think about what makes them feel good. “If something gives you joy, it’s likely you will share that joy with others.”