BGC receives bus donation
Planning field trips for students at the Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area just got easier, thanks to a bus donation from John Mensch, owner of East End Bus Lines. He handed over the keys to a 20-seat miniature school bus last Friday, Feb. 1 at the club, joined by executive director Sybil Mimy Johnson and several board members.
“This helps us tremendously,” said Johnson, explaining that transporting kids to outings has sometimes been a logistical challenge. “We would take multiple trips, so if we were seeing a 3 p.m. movie, we’d start transporting the kids hours before,” she said, noting that it took multiple trips and scheduling several dates for such trips.
According to Mensch, the bus was phased out in order to purchase a new fleet. “Instead of scrapping it or trading it in to a dealership for a new one, we found out there was a need for it at the Boys and Girls Club,” he said. “He’s a true ‘mensch,’” joked board president Michael Mullaney, alluding to the informal Yiddish term for someone of integrity and character. “It’s a happy day.”
The donation comes just in time for a much-anticipated trip to the movies to see the upcoming “Black Panther” film. With a standout cast featuring Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther that also includes Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya and Forest Whitaker, Johnson pointed out the importance of the film’s release. “[The kids] are excited. It’s the first time they get to see a superhero of color making such a big wave on the screen,” she said.
Set to open Feb. 16, Fandango recently reported that “Black Panther” has outpaced all superhero movies in advance ticket sales online, topping 2016’s “Batman v Superman” movie. “Tickets have sold out quickly, so we’re excited to have the opportunity to see it,” Johnson said. Tickets were purchased from donations by various local community groups, she said.
Board member Clyde Parker was grateful for the donation. “We’ve been in need of this bus for quite some time,” he said, thanking Mensch. “The kids are going to love it and we’ll be able to do a lot more for them because of it.”
Johnson said that the bus will get a lot of use, between trips and camp and transporting kids in the evening when needed. Derrick Rountree, a former club member-turned-employee, frequently drives kids home after dark. “He makes sure that kids aren’t walking home after 8 or in the cold, even if they live three blocks away,” Johnson said.
She plans to eventually paint the yellow school bus white to match the other one and bear the Boys and Girls Club’s national logo: Great Futures Start Here.
The donation was a no-brainer for Mensch, whose East End Bus Lines company serves the South Country School District. “We’ve been a part of the community for 10 years; we transport all the kids in the community,” Mensch said. “It was the right thing to do when kids are in need.”
Both Johnson and board member Alison Buck said that having a second bus would be a game-changer in terms of programming. “The most important thing about the Boys and Girls Club is the kids, and this is going to enrich a lot of their activities,” Buck said.
The club uses buses to transport children to museum trips and, in warmer weather, the Long Island Aquarium and Water Park in Riverhead.
Johnson also said that they plan to use the buses for upcoming college tours to local schools like Stony Brook, St. Joseph’s, Adelphi and her alma mater, Hofstra. “They enjoy that one because of the connection. I walk around and they get to hear the old director talk about her heyday,” Johnson said, laughing. “But it helps because they get to see what I experienced as a college student who didn’t come from a background that could afford a Hofstra education,” she said, noting that she went there via scholarship. “I want them to see that it’s attainable.”
Johnson, who is starting her third year as the club’s executive director, said that part of her mission is for kids to branch out of Bellport. “They have to get outside of the 10 blocks [of Bellport], go see the world, and then come home and change things,” she said.
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