by Heather Larson
John Bailey has always put service above self. That’s one of the mottos of the Rotary Club and one he follows closely because he’s been a Rotarian for 40 years. When he heard through his club that a mission trip was in the works to help victims of hurricane flooding in New Bern, North Carolina, he raised his hand to volunteer. That trip took place during the week of July 14 this year.
When Hurricane Florence and its gale force winds of 90 mph hit New Bern on September 14, 2018, it did $100 million in damages. The storm surge afterward left more than 1,700 homes and 235 businesses with extensive flood damage. The need to rebuild homes of flood victims without insurance, with lower incomes and who needed Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible homes was urgent.
First for Bailey, who is president of Bailey Coach in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, was supplying a ride to transport some of the volunteers to New Bern. Not only did he donate his Rotary-themed coach to get the group to the disaster site, but he also drove it. Shipley Energy in York, Pennsylvania, donated the fuel the coach needed.
Once in New Bern, Bailey and his crew worked on two homes.
“Both of these houses had three feet of water on the first floor,” Bailey said. “The family I did most of the work for had to move out from September to January and lost most everything they had. The husband and wife both used wheelchairs to get around.”
Bailey admits to being handy around the house after building additions to his home and maintaining his residence. His part of the mission had him rebuilding the couple’s wheelchair ramps, installing all new drywall, laying new flooring, doing some minor electrical work and adding new switches and outlets throughout the home.
But the work didn’t stop there. His group installed handrails in the bathroom and fixed the sink so it was ADA accessible. Bailey tiled the backsplash in the kitchen and behind the stove. They placed new crown molding in all the rooms along with new baseboards and painted every room. And that’s just what he remembers.
A second crew replaced bad joists in the attic of the other home. The temperature remained at 130 degrees while they worked in the attic. They also insulated it and started to hang drywall in the living portion of the house.
This rebuilding for flood victims is not Bailey’s first contribution to community service, and it won’t be his last. In 2016 he challenged his staff to 100-percent participation in Bailey Coach’s United Way campaign. If his crew met that goal, Bailey promised to dye his hair blue. They met the challenge and he honored his promise with neon turquoise hair that he kept for a week. He even attended his Rotary Club meeting with blue hair.
In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey was about to hit Texas, Bailey sent three of his buses to get evacuees to safety. After the storm hit, he gathered and sent almost 60,000 pounds of non-perishable food and clothing to help the victims.
When asked why giving back is so essential to him, Bailey said, “I feel lucky to wake up each day in a nice home. Since God has given me the tools through my business and my family to be able to, I’ve always tried to help nonprofits.”
There are still hundreds of rebuilds to be done in New Bern, so Bailey says he’ll be onboard for the next mission trip in March. But this time one of his employees will drive the bus.