The bus has arrived.

For months, the Northwest Communities Development Corporation has been holding fundraisers – a garage sale, a spaghetti dinner, corned beef last week for St. Patrick’s Day – to buy a bus. It would take seniors to and from the Fairmount Community Center, which serves meals and holds dance and exercise sessions and other programs.

Three weeks ago, The Examiner had a front-page update on that effort, and that caught the eye of Charlie Shields, chief operating officer of Truman Medical Center-Lakewood.

“And I already had an extra bus that we were looking for a home for,” Shields said Thursday night at the CDC’s annual dinner.

So the hospital is giving the bus to the community center. Shields presented the keys at the opening of his keynote speech, and he said that will be just part of the hospital’s efforts to help the CDC in its neighborhood revitalization efforts.

“There is a great, tremendous future in store for northwest Independence,” he said.

Shields, who served 20 years in the Missouri General Assembly before going to work for the hospital last year, ticked off a series of large challenges facing state and federal governments: public distrust, excessive partisanship, a fundamental lack of vision, and budgets that will be crimped for years.

“There simply is not enough money to go around,” he said.

That means programs for housing – a key Northwest CDC priority – and other efforts will likely go away in the years to come. He said cities, counties and local groups will have to work together and said those with the right traits – diversity, good education, affordable housing, healthy citizens and a active faith-based community – will succeed.

“That’s exactly what your seeing in northwest Independence,” Shields said.

Shields – Van Horn High School Class of ’77 – also stressed the importance of community schools and, to applause, cited the 2007 vote to move Van Horn and six other Kansas City School District schools into the Independence School District.

The Northwest CDC also presented the annual Richard A. King Civic Engagement Award to retired Judge Jack Gant. King was a mayor of Independence and active in other political and civic affairs. His daughter, Mary King Hendricks, cited Gant’s passion for Drumm Farm in Independence.

Gant, who had a long career in the law and in politics, thanked those at the dinner for their help through the years.

“No one is ever successful on their own talents and merits. You’ve got to have someone support you,” he said – encouraging those gathered to go out and do just that.