Leah Landon understands the necessity for reliable transportation.
Leah, 13, participates in summer programming with the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri and this week felt the impact when the club’s bus once again was sent to a mechanic for needed repairs.
“(Thursday) the bus wasn’t working so I had to miss Outdoor Adventures,” Leah said. “I was pretty bummed because we were going to go fishing and I brought my pole and everything.”
For years, the club has used a short school bus to shuttle members from its sites to parks, pools and various other locations to take part in educational and activity programs. The bus, vintage 1989, is showing its age and now spends just about as much time in the repair shop as it does transporting club kids.
Vicki Hart, site manager at Sedalia Middle School, has been driving the bus for five years.
“The need (for a new vehicle) has been present for a long time,” Hart said. “(The current bus) gets us where we are going, but it would be so nice to have something more reliable.”
To address that need, the club has launched the “Take Pride In Our Ride” capital campaign to raise about $30,000 for a new 12- to 15-seat van. Communications Coordinator Emily Jarrett said club officials are determining whether they want a used van with a few miles on it or a new model. But it is clear that the club needs a more reliable ride.
“It’s definitely old,” Jarrett said of the current bus. “The windows don’t come down, there is no air (conditioning), there is no heat. It has engine problems – nothing outrageously horrible, but we have had to put it out of service. It would be a lot more cost-effective if we had something new.”
The bus – when operational – is getting considerable use this summer for the Outdoor Adventures and Gardening programs. Hart said Outdoor Adventures has included fishing trips, playing disc golf at Clover Dell Park, exploring Flat Creek – “Anything we can do to get the kids out of the building.”
“(Wednesday) I took a kid fishing who had never been fishing before,” she added. “I think he would have stayed there all day long – it was good for him.”
Jarrett said longtime club supporter W-K Chevrolet is helping with the effort, but one of the campaign drive’s goals is to get families who use the club’s services to invest in their children’s opportunities.
“We’re trying to get our families involved because it is a lower price point,” Jarrett said. “A lot of our other sponsorships start at the $100 level and that is out of reach for many families, but $25, hopefully some of our families can swing that. We can take lower amounts, as well. We priced out everything on the van so different levels pay for different things.”
For example, if a business or individual donates $5,000 – the cost of the engine – the new vehicle will feature “Powered by” with the donor’s name. A $250 donation will cover the cost of a seat belt.
The new vehicle is clearly a need, not a want. As Jarrett pointed out, the club has a 21st Century Grant that requires a specified amount of service learning, so club members need to be transported across the county to complete those projects. An unreliable or, worse yet, an unusable vehicle means club members don’t get to paint picnic tables, sing at adult care facilities or provide other community outreach.
“It’s a loss for this city but it’s also a loss for these kids,” Hart said.
Jarrett is hopeful that the money can be raised by the end of the summer, so the club can start the 2015-16 school year with reliable transportation and thus additional field trip options for members. That would bring a smile to Leah’s face.
“I would be really happy (for the club) to get a new van because then we can always go on our field trips, and we can go farther too,” Leah said. “Ms. Vicki is always saying we can’t take the bus too far in case it breaks down, but if we had something new there wouldn’t be that constant worry.”
“It’s a needed thing, that is for sure,” Jarrett said.
HOW TO HELP
To contribute to the “Take Pride In Our Ride” campaign, go to bgckids.com and click on the Donate Today button at the top right of the home page. Donors also can call the club at 826-8331.