Yankee Trails is being praised for spreading hope on wheels while gathering food for those in need.
Owner Steve Tobin said the outreach began as a way to bring smiles to people’s faces during the stress of the ongoing pandemic.
A Yankee Trails bus is adorned with a rainbow for hope, and speakers blare upbeat music as the bus winds through neighborhoods. Staff dress up as popular characters, such as Cookie Monster and Tigger, to entertain the young as the bus passes through different areas.
Tobin donned the costume of the bespectacled main character from the “Where’s Waldo” children’s book series to encourage people to follow the bus’ journey on social media.
The Albany, New York, operator’s rolling food drives offer some inspiration for others looking to create a positive event in their communities before or after the Motorcoaches Rolling for Awareness Rally, planned for May 13 in Washington, D.C.
“Yankee Trails has gotten something going that was really impressive,” said Larry Killingsworth, United Motorcoach Association president and CEO.
‘We’re having fun’
Tobin’s team came up with the idea of letting people know the bus’ route and asking them to leave nonperishable food on their driveway for pickup.
“We’re literally going door to door collecting canned goods and, at the end of the day, we’re giving all the canned goods to the local food pantries,” Tobin said. “People are running out to the end of their driveway with their donations. We’re having fun with it. We’re playing super loud music, and everybody’s coming out of their houses to cheer the bus on.”
He’s done several rolling food drives, which have all been well-received and have been covered in several news reports.
“We’re getting some good press out of it and helping out a lot of families that need some meals right now,” said Tobin, sharing the experience during the May 7 UMA Town Hall session.
The company has been highlighting the route on its Facebook page and using a tracker, so people can see when the bus is arriving in their neighborhoods.
Inspiration for others
Killingsworth said he hopes Yankee Trails’ rolling food drive inspires other creative efforts to raise the profile of motorcoach operators with positive projects.
“Let’s make that a challenge to everybody. Who can come up with something that would be as creative?” Killingsworth said. “You got a win-win-win all the way around, in every respect. I think it’s motivational for your team members, it’s motivational to the community, and you’re actually giving back and getting a response of gratefulness.”
Tobin said the Hope Bus has given the company a sense of purpose as they are waiting for business to return.
“We are worried all the time, but this actually is giving us a reason to wake up in the morning to kind of unite behind each other and get this going. You’ll see if you get out there and get into the community. I promise, people will cheer you on.”