Atmos Community Advancement Manager Dan Alderson called the 14-passenger mini-bus gifted to the United Way in what is now a dozen such gifts to local service organizations “a passion” through which Atmos is helping groups go out to meet the community’s needs where they are.
Because of the company’s generosity, United Way President and CEO Kristan Ginnings said, “The United Way is now, literally, mobile.”
Second Harvest Food Bank Executive Director Rhonda Chafin called the United Way’s first deployment of the bus in the food bank’s summer feeding program “an answered prayer” for some 300 Washington County children on the food bank’s Lunch Express bus routes.
About 100 United Way supporters gathered outside the United Way offices on North Roan Street to cut a ribbon on the bus and fill it with books that will be delivered to children, along with daily lunches and child-friendly health initiatives facilitated by local health care providers, who will also join the new summer feeding partnership.
Adding to the partnership, members of the United Way’s new Emerging Leaders group have designated the proceeds from their comedy night fundraisers to the costs of fuel, a driver and an America Corps volunteer to staff the bus.
“So basically, they’re funding the whole thing,” Chafin said.
Explaining the significance, Chafin said, “It’s an invaluable gesture because we really didn’t know if we could have (Lunch Express for) Washington County this year. Our bus is old and we were having trouble staffing it and buying the fuel because our funding is tight this year and our donations are still down. And we have 40,000 kids in our region who qualify for free and reduced priced (school) meals.”
When summer ends and the kids are back in class the new bus will take on another important assignment ferrying potential United Way supporters on agency tours for a first-hand look at what impact their contributions will make.
Alderson summed it up, saying, “Together we are better. United we can do so many things.”