BGCAP - Success Stories
I think there is an important perk within our community about which many people are totally unaware: the little known Bluegrass Ultra Transit Bus Service.
I found this gem when I was exploring options to get to the Bluegrass Airport in Lexington over Thanksgiving. Flying in and out of Bluegrass Airport was made effortless and enjoyable since discovering the Bluegrass Ultra Transit Bus. No need to find a ride from family or friends, or pay to park at the airport.
I just contacted the Bluegrass Ultra Transit to check the schedule and then caught the bus at Walnut Street in Danville. I was dropped off at the airport terminal doors for a very reasonable fare. I let them know when I was returning and after a very short wait, they were there to bring me home.
They have limited hours, but I was able to make my travel plans to coincide with their service. It is my understanding the bus has several drop-off and pick-up points in Lexington and runs several times a day.
I am surprised, when I mention this to people, that most are unaware of this great service. I hope that in sharing this more people will become aware and begin using this transportation so we don’t lose this wonderful service.
Blue Grass Head Start Parent Evaluation (submitted by parent)
Question: Do you feel your child has improved by attending Head Start?
Parent: Most Definitely
If so, explain:
Parent: Too many ways to mention really – I am so happy with your teachers and staff in our county.
Question: What do you like best about the Head Start program?
Parent:I am a single mom and I feel like Head Start helps me in giving my son all the attention and focus he needs.
Question: What are your suggestions for improvement of the Head Start program?
Parent:I am pleased with the way you all currently have it. Maybe a spa day for the staff, just kidding but they do an awesome job.
Question: Are you able to volunteer?
Parent:Yes, I have on occasion bus monitored.
Question: If so, do you feel welcome?
Parent: Absolutely, his bus driver is always pleasant to me and accommodating as well.
Question: Do you have any suggestions for additional activities for the parents?
Parent:No, I am happy with the way it is.
Question: Do you attend parent meetings?
Parent: Not as often as I’d like.
Question: If no, explain:
Parent:My schedule doesn’t always allow me to.
Question: Do you find the newsletters helpful?
Parent:Yes, I find them very helpful.
Question: Additional Comments:
Parent:As I mentioned, I am a single mom. I love my son with all of my heart and want only the very best for him always. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, his father is not in our picture. That means I get to wear many hats. It can be tough juggling a household by one’s self. Working, cleaning and raising my Son requires a lot of attention to the details. Thankfully, your organization exists. Head Start picks up the pieces (by paying attention to the details) that maybe I have missed along the way.
For instance, these may seem small, but they are actually huge. Thanks to Head Start, my son has mastered being able to button and zip his pants. Thanks to Head Start he has adopted a “Try it and you may like it” attitude towards new foods. He has become more conscientious of good hygiene practices (he wants to wash his hands more). He can write his name and then there is the personal satisfaction he gets from the program’s activities and staff
All of your staff (teachers, directors etc.) are wonderful, caring individuals. They have been so good to my son and me. Thank you for your organization and all you do.
Formerly Homeless Man is Living Second Chance
Homeless service providers know that homeless individuals and families typically need life-assistance services, such as job guidance, child care and case management, to help them get back on their feet. In more recent time of increasing homeless numbers, many providers have also learned that chronically homeless individuals with drug and/or alcohol issues need recovery programs to help them overcome their addiction before they can overcome their homelessness. Another key to overcoming homelessness, in addition to these services, is to offer the homeless a guiding hand through help, encouragement and support, as well as the opportunity to give back, as told in the following story.
Time has become a highly valued asset to Jacob Sparks (not real name). At age 59, this soft-spoken, formerly homeless man is well aware of the times he has missed in life, but now he is even more aware and appreciative of the special times he is experiencing.
“My two children told me that what I couldn’t do for them as a father, I can make up for as a grandfather to their children,” said Sparks. Now, he can’t speak about his six grandchildren without a tearful smile completely filling his face.
“Blew” Military Career
“It all started downhill when I blew my career in the Navy,” explained Sparks. He had 15 years of service with the U.S. Navy as a legal specialist and was going through a difficult divorce. It was 1988 and he had just returned to the U.S. after four years in the Persian Gulf, where he lived across the street from a Palestinian Liberation Organization camp.
He was depressed and suffering from severe back and leg pain when he decided to try cocaine. Soon thereafter, he said the “military called for a command sweep drug test and I was caught.”
Following his involuntary discharge, he lived with his mother in Lexington. At the time of her death, Sparks had no job and could not pay rent for a home. He lived on the streets or in shelters, drank heavily and was more depressed than ever. He was 40 years old and had no place to go – much less be.
On the Streets and Self-Destruction
After bumming around Lexington for awhile, he left Kentucky in 1992 and went to Nashville, Tennessee, where he took odd jobs, stayed on the street and occasionally in a shelter. “The shelter down there was so bad,” Sparks said, “that the homeless called it the ‘House of Pain’ because they are known to give you pain there. You’re better off on the streets.”
He later took a job based out of Maryland traveling around selling neckties, shirts, purses, scarves, etc., in hotel lobbies. Eventually, the business closed. Next he lived on the streets in south Dallas, Texas, which he said is known as one of the roughest sections in the country.
Sparks then made his way back to Lexington to stay with his brother for a while before moving to Columbus, Ohio. “I spent about three days at a homeless shelter in Columbus, which turned out to be a cult in my opinion,” said Sparks. From there he went to the Volunteers of America Shelter where the staff helped him initially file for disability due to this back and leg problems. After about eight months in Ohio, he returned to Louisville.
Sparks said he used alcohol and drugs to cloud his mind because he did not want to think about his life. “It was too painful to admit how much I had disappointed myself and others. I was even suicidal at times. Nobody out there wants to be in that shape. It becomes a way of life. It’s so easy to just go into one’s shell. I never even had a drinking buddy.”
Sometimes when things were going well, Sparks said he would be afraid that they were going “too good” for him – more than he deserved. He explained that he did not want anybody too close for fear he would take them down with him. He began to understand how much he had disappointed his mother and children. He felt no self-worth and found solace in self-destruction.
To regain some stability, he joined a program for veterans with addiction problems through the Veterans Administration Hospital in Lexington. This program provided him with living quarters at the hospital for several months, and he was becoming more and more eager to move forward with his life.
Samaritan Extends a Hand
In 2007, Blue Grass Community Action Partnership was awarded the Samaritan Housing Partnership grant in collaboration with Kentucky River Foothills Community Action Partnership and Pennyroyal Regional Mental Health/Mental Retardation Board, Inc. The grant is for unaccompanied adults who are chronically homeless and have a disability – like Jacob Sparks, who has also had cancer twice.
Linda Beebe is an administrator with Blue Grass Community Action Partnership in Frankfort. She said they began working with social service agencies in September 2007 to locate individuals who met the needs required by the grant. She met Sparks in January 2008 when he was staying at the Frankfort ACCESS shelter and doing odd jobs in the soup kitchen. He had come to Frankfort in hopes of finding a new beginning. Sparks said he was happy to do those odd jobs at the soup kitchen, like cooking and sweeping floors, because plenty of people had done them for him.
Beebe first helped Sparks with the basics. “The Samaritan Program allowed us to move Jacob into a subsidized unit for 12 months. He had no furniture, but with the help of many, we came up with the furnishings he needed. We then secured him a food box and some dishes from the Salvation Army and his friends at the soup kitchen helped with food items as well. Jacob was on his way.”
He began working with the Senior Community Service Employment Program in November 2008. He likes the work very much and is appreciative of the opportunity to give back. Sparks says he is really enjoying life now and he loves being able to give back. He also loves listening to music, especially jazz and blues.
According to Beebe, he visits his children and grandchildren often and volunteered frequently at the soup kitchen until some recent health problems. “Jacob and I talk almost every day since he began working,” she said. “When I don’t hear from him, I start checking around to make sure he is okay because of his health problems.”
Of Sparks Beebe concluded, “Jacob has given me a greater insight into the homeless world. He is more secure now and hopefully knows that he is not going to lose this time.”
'BUS' Proves a Lifesaver for Baldwin
For Stanley Baldwin, it’s this simple: the Bluegrass Ultra-transit Service, or BUS, is one of the reasons he’s still alive.
This October will make four years since Baldwin, 60, learned that his kidneys had started to fail him. And this October will make four years since Baldwin started riding the BUS to his dialysis treatments in Frankfort. Recently, the BUS helped make his life even better. Baldwin recently signed up for the New Freedom initiative, a transportation service offered to disabled individuals at a reduced fare of 50 cents per mile with a three-mile minimum one way.
For the first six to eight months of treatment, Baldwin’s transportation to and from dialysis on the BUS was covered by Medicaid, but after that time frame he had to start paying his own way. At regular cost, transportation on the BUS is $1 per mile. Paying this rate, Baldwin said he could only afford the BUS one way. Thankfully, his family and neighbors stepped in to take him to Frankfort, and he rides the BUS back to Lawrenceburg.
“I’m just thankful I have relatives, friends and the BUS” he said. “Otherwise, I’d die.” Recently, Baldwin noticed an advertisement for the New Freedom initiative. After checking into it, he realized he qualified. So with a signed form from his doctor, his costs were cut in half. Now instead of paying $27 a week, it’s $13.50. Baldwin said his friends, family and the BUS help him keep a positive outlook even though the four-hour dialysis treatments, three days a week take a lot of his energy. “But it’s better than not living at all,” he said. “I could be sad or upset about it, but I think it’s better to live life until it ends.”