Activity center

Elderly people stranded after catalytic converter was stolen from vans at Corbin Elderly Activity Center

SPOKANE, Wash. – Spokane police report spike in catalytic converter thefts continues to be a concern.

Now the members of Corbin Senior Activity Center are deprived of their most vital resource: their vans.

“It’s our life here,” said the center’s executive director, Heide Wehr. “When you say senior activity center it means active.”

Corbin Senior Activity Center offers members guided tours to learn, explore and experience the interior northwest. Wehr says the tours are incredibly popular and are often fully booked.

“These are dynamic people in their 70s, 80s, 90s who just want to get out and be social,” Wehr said.

Thursday morning and again early Saturday, the catalytic converters of each of their two 14-passenger vans were stolen. The thieves were caught on video from a neighbor’s security camera.

“Buses are absolutely essential for us,” said Jan Charbonneau.

Charbonneau is a board member of the Corbin Senior Activity Center, but also serves in a variety of roles, including kitchen volunteer and chaperone.

“I have a bus tour called Northwest Treasures, and it’s a mystery tour!” said Charbonneau, laughing. “I don’t tell anyone where we’re going until we get there!”

But for now, the members of the center aren’t going anywhere.

“I was heartbroken. Why would people do this to their grandparents? said Charbonneau. “I mean, we’re grandparents!” We are great-grandparents!

“Since we have the two buses out of service, we died in the water,” continued Charbonneau. “We cannot organize visits. We will probably have to cancel day trips for the rest of the month.

Wehr calls the center Spokane’s best-kept secret, but as a nonprofit, they’re now facing two costly repairs.

“People don’t even know we’re here, and there’s so much going on,” Wehr said. “We don’t want to be Spokane’s best-kept secret, but these pickups are such a big part of this business that it makes you angry. It makes you angry that someone does that, and they don’t care. I think that’s the other part of the problem.

House Bill 1815– which Governor Jay Inslee signed into law late last month – is trying to address the issue by requiring more documentation before buying or selling catalytic convertersand gives police more resources to help track down catalytic converter thieves.

However, the problem still remains.

Wehr says a catalytic converter was once stolen from one of their pickups, in December 2020. This time they had to wait nearly three months for the part to arrive and pay nearly $2,000 for the repair.

They are likely facing similar costs this time around to repair each of their vans and have set up a GoFundMe to try to help cover the costs. To visit the GoFundMe, click here.

FOX28 Spokane©