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Renton School Bus Drivers, Mechanics Set Charitable Example

PHOTO: Bus drivers and mechanics from the Renton School District enjoy their time at the Renton Community Suppers so much that they've made it a monthly volunteer commitment. Photo courtesy Darlene Larsen.
PHOTO: Bus drivers and mechanics from the Renton School District enjoy their time at the Renton Community Suppers so much that they've made it a monthly volunteer commitment. Photo courtesy Darlene Larsen.
December 24, 2013

RENTON, Wash. - Christmas is on a Wednesday this year, but many Wednesdays will be special days in the New Year for the bus drivers and mechanics of the Renton School District, in the suburban area south of Seattle. They spend one Wednesday evening a month helping to prepare and serve the Renton Community Supper, a nightly hot meal provided through the Salvation Army.

Substitute bus driver Darlene Larsen found out about the need for volunteers through her church, and asked fellow AFT Washington members if they'd pitch in.

According to Larsen, from 60 to 90 people are served, seven nights a week.

"There are homeless people in the Renton community of all ages, from teenagers to the older generation too, that are out there," she said. "And there's families that come in that are not homeless, but they're just needing to stretch that monthly budget."

The Renton Salvation Army has said it helped more people in 2013 than the previous year, including 546 families on Thanksgiving, and volunteers are always needed.

This mealtime volunteer commitment is about two hours, but Larsen said some people stay longer and get to know the diners.

"I'll grab a plate and go have a meal and just talk with them and see how they're doing, if there's any needs that we could direct them to a resource that can help them with a need," she said. "It's a way to just be involved, and not just sit back and watch, and not do anything about it."

She added she's also hopeful about expanding the school district's role in the Renton Community Suppers.

"I'd like to see maybe a challenge put out there for other departments within the Renton School District - say, nutrition or office staff workers - or maybe even different schools would put together a team and just take one night a month for two hours, and have a team go there."

Larsen noted that there are probably volunteer opportunities in every part of the state that could use more time and energy: it just takes someone to bring them to others' attention and organize the effort.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA