Caring for students doesn’t stop when a driver’s route is over or the last child is delivered, it continues tomorrow and days beyond. First Student drivers understand the reason we do what we do is because of the children; we work hard to give kids the best start and finish to each school day and to prepare them for their future. Our work is more than just transportation, its encouraging children to focus, inspiring them to dream, and providing them with protection and safety that’s more than just a warm bus.
That’s what happened on a cold winter morning in Rochester, Minnesota. Linda Bowar’s morning started like any other -23° morning, but then one of her students climbed onboard her bus, crying and without a coat. When Linda asked him why he wasn’t dressed for the weather he told her that his mother didn’t have enough money to purchase him a coat for the winter. At that moment, Linda took our “safety first” mentality to a whole new level; she promised that student he would have a new coat, hat, scarf and gloves by the end of the day. And she made good on that promise.
After safely completing her morning routes, Linda went to a local department store to shop for that young boy. While talking with the store manager about the reason for the shopping trip, the store manager graciously offered to donate the coat, gloves, hat and scarf to Linda for her student. Feeding off Linda’s enthusiasm to care for her students, the store manager helped her shop for the coat and accessories and also donated two sets of thermal undershirts/pants.
Later that day, as that young student boarded Linda’s bus to go home, she gifted him with this new clothing. Overwhelmed is not a descriptive enough word to describe how happy the boy was to receive his new winter attire and not enough to describe how Linda felt to see his gratitude.
While this story takes place in just one day, the sentimentality stayed with Linda; she knew that within her district, there were many similar stories of children whose families couldn’t afford to purchase new winter coats every year. She resolved to change that and started Operation Cold Kidz.
As the leader of Operation Cold Kidz, Linda visited her local department stores to urge their participation in the Operation Cold Kidz inaugural initiative. She asked for those stores to donate warm coats or gloves, hats and scarves for a coat drive to be held at the First Student bus yard.
The Operation Cold Kidz Coat Drive featured dozens of coats and other winter outerwear. First Student and the school district collaborated to promote it to the children in the district. On a cold Saturday morning in the Rochester maintenance garage, children and their families stopped by the coat drive to pick up a free coat and/or other outwear. The students and their families also warmed up with hot drinks and some baked sweets donated by a local bakery.
First Student location staff donated their time and talents to get this initiative off the ground and they say it paid out in dividends. More than two-hundred children benefitted from the inaugural Operation Cold Kidz Coat Drive. “The smiles on the faces of all the children who received these new items warmed all of our hearts,” says Location Manager Jon Goetz, “Linda’s compassion for her student riders and our community of Rochester will have a lasting legacy in Operation Cold Kidz.”