Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley unveil new shuttle buses

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley’s new shuttle buses stand out from the crowd.

Vehicles made possible by $130,000 grant from Freeport-McMoRan Foundation

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

SAFFORD – With a unique wrap donated and installed by CMI Wraps, everyone who sees the Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley’s new shuttle busses will instantly recognize the organization.

On Thursday, the shuttle buses were unveiled in the parking lot of CMI.  

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, III Counties Distributing owner Tim Linden, Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley President/Chairman of the Board Drew John and CMI co-owner Ron Tolman share a laugh.

“I wanted to have something that stood out and showed who we are to make the kids feel proud when they get picked up and when they are traveling with each other and, most importantly, (to travel in) safety and comfort,” Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley Executive Officer/Director Mick Ruiz said. 

The shuttle buses were made possible by a $130,000 grant from the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation’s Graham County Community Investment Fund and utilized local car dealer Kempton Chevrolet to purchase the vehicles. The brand new buses come stock-filled with a number of gadgets, and, unlike the Club’s old van transportation, are safer with seatbelts for each rider and, thankfully, crispy cold air conditioning. 

“The vehicles that we had, they were donated to us and we were gracious for that but they were weather-worn; they were beat down and they were going to require a lot more maintenance,” Ruiz said. 

About that time, Ruiz was steered toward applying for a grant from Freeport and originally requested one van. On Thursday, he joyfully regaled in FMI coordinator Sean Wenham telling him they weren’t able to give the Club the $65,000 it requested for a bus because it was going to give it $130,000 for two buses instead. To date, the Freeport-McMoran Foundation has donated $4.65 million to the Graham County Investment Fund in the past 10 years since its inception in 2009. The fund selects grant recipients each year.   

“With these vehicles, we’re going to be able to expand our reach to the kids to bring them to the Club, which allows parents and guardians to maintain their budgets, so they don’t have to pay so much for childcare while their kids are attending the club,” Ruiz said.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Those associated with the event gather for a group photo.

Wenham was on hand for the unveiling and, with III Counties Distributing owner Tim Linden, presented the Club with another grant, this one for $30,000 to help with its activity-based programs for the upcoming school year.

“I think it’s great,” longtime Club supporter Ed Ragland said. “One of the things that we’ve needed is good transportation. And, gee, you not only end up with one but two. I appreciate all the support from the community.” 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley Executive Officer/Director Mick Ruiz accepts a grant from the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation’s Graham County Investment Fund for $30,000 with III Counties Distributing owner Tim Linden presenting the award.

Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley President/Chairman of the Board Drew John said the buses are a huge upgrade in transportation and will expand the scope of the Club’s abilities while making it safer for the children and staff. Recently, the Club had an inaugural trip in the blue shuttle bus up to Flagstaff for a Legos competition. John said if the Club had to have used one of the old vans for the trip it likely wouldn’t have made it in one piece. The shuttle buses will be used for activities but will also be available for use for local pickup for Club members from schools. 

“Besides safety, it opens up the doors to a lot more possibilities for expanding,” John said. “

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley President/Chairman of the Board Drew John invites the public to take a ride at the unveiling.

While the busses fit 15 passengers, Ruiz said he is limiting the number of children to 13 in each bus to allow for two staff members as well. 

Ruiz added that the Club will donate its old vans other nonprofits. For more information contact Ruiz at the Boys & Girls Club of the Gila Valley at (928) 424-2100. 

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