Driver Angela Powell and fellow Driver and friend Nicole Lingle from First Student’s Gresham, Oregon Location #10388 noticed that several of their students were in need of backpacks/school supplies. Together they decided to embark on a community engagement project. Their goals was to collect enough backpacks/school supplies to meet the needs of those students who qualified under the state of Oregon’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program Act. At the time, there were nearly 400 students in Gresham Barlow School District facing housing stability challenges. Shortly after Angela Powell and Nicole Lingle proposed the program, Drivers Sandy Braumuellor and Sherry Cordil joined the cause. The four spent the summer using a bus and barrels donated by the district to collect items.
Community members donated non-perishable foods and hygiene supplies. When school started in September 2017, the team had 580 backpacks. With that success, the drivers decided to go further to try to combat hunger. The Oregon Army National Guard provided 250 cinch-style backpacks. The team uses these for a “Weekly Weekend Munch” for 38 students. On Thursdays, Nicole and Angela gather in the operation backpack command center and assemble meals that students could prepare without adult supervision. Each backpack contains two meals for Saturday and Sunday. If it is a long weekend, there would be a total of five meals in their sack. A district liaison provides the name, school and grade of each student. The bags are tagged and drivers dropped them off at the main office of each school where the guidance counselors distributed them. Many drivers provide help each week – either taking bags to schools or bringing in food for the bags. “As an employee, a community member and a school bus driver, it is my first duty to always be safe. If I can’t do it safely. I don’t do it. I see my second duty as making a positive effect on the lives of our district kids through community engagement,” said Angela. “This is not just a job to me. It’s a way of life.”