Elliot Harris, the city system’s director of auxiliary services, spoke with the local restaurant’s general manager, Billy Hampton, about honoring the bus drivers with certificates where they could redeem their meals and congregate with one another. Harris was all smiles Friday when drivers lined up to place their order at the counter.
“Instead of doing a ‘Bus Driver of the Month,’ as the certificates say, he’s going to honor all the bus drivers at one time, so he’s going to give them a meal as a way of honoring all of our bus drivers for what they do to transport our children,” Harris said. “I am really very proud of these drivers. They all have been driving the same route for years. They know all the parents; they know all the children on their route, and they really do love and care about these children.
“There’s not a child in this school district that would be left stranded. The driver will carry the child home and it doesn’t matter what route it’s on if that child is stranded, but that doesn’t happen much.”
Accompanying the 13 drivers who were present Friday was Jasper City Superintendent Robert Sparkman. He sat with the drivers and expressed his appreciation for everything they do for the school system.
“I tell them this all the time, they have one of the most difficult jobs you could imagine. They are given the task of getting in the front of the bus, and they have the safety of every child on that bus in their hands and they have to look forward and watch for any traffic issues while at the same time managing 50 to 60 kids that they can’t even look at,” Sparkman said. “The thing about our bus drivers that I appreciate is they take real ownership of those children on that bus. They know them by name; they care about them. ... They’re good folks, good people. It’s also very nice, too, of Captain D’s to do this for them.”
Scott Allred, the area supervisor of Captain D’s, and Hampton were both happy to recognize the bus drivers Friday.
“We’re just doing an appreciation dinner for those guys for doing a great job for our community,” Allred said.
Hampton commented, “It’s a wonderful feeling to get involved with the community, whether it’s bus drivers or schools or churches, anything. We try to welcome everybody. I appreciate everybody coming out and hope they enjoy their meal.”
Bus drivers Lloyd Jenkins, Anita Madison and Brenda Williams have a combined driving record of more than 50 years on the road — 13, 15 and 25, respectively. The three thanked the business for recognizing them, which some say isn’t very often. They each spoke briefly about why they love their jobs as bus drivers.
“The interaction with the children, sometimes you have to deal with issues on the bus — maybe not behaving like they should or maybe sometimes disrespect. But, overall, you realize that you have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life,” Jenkins said. “There are many kids that you pick up, you don’t know what they come out of and you don’t know what they’re going back home to. So, in that 30 to 40 minutes that they’re on the bus, it gives you the opportunity to be a positive influence into the life of a youngster.”
Madison added that not only does she love the hours she works and being off in the summer, but she also enjoys the comradery with the children.
“I appreciate Captain D’s doing this for us very much,” Madison said. “We don’t get much recognition, and this is wonderful.”
“I love the kids. When I’m off in the summer, I actually do miss them,” Williams exclaimed. “We really appreciate what they have done. It’s a way of us getting together and fellowshipping with each other.”