This is better than Christmas…
So for those of you who may have been unaware, Get On The Bus successfully launched its 11th event yesterday at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF), Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) both in Chowchilla, CA and California Institute for Women (CIW) in Corona, CA. With the help of thousands of volunteers, faith communities, companies, nonprofits and universities, we took around 700 children to visit their mothers for a special Mother’s Day visit!
We had a couple of bumps in the road (no pun intended) which had to do with the incompetencies of the newly awarded state contracted bus company Silverado Stages and their failure to deliver buses, (Bus C stood in the parking lot in Inglewood for 3.5 hours in the dark and the cold and some families left. All members of the company, who claimed that they would have someone available all night for dispatch and gave out the head person’s cell number, didn’t even respond until 5 am and when they did their comment was, “I’m sorry this happens in the transportation industry. I’ve called the driver and he is not picking up, you can’t expect anymore from me and I don’t know what else to do.” For those of you who know me, you can imagine the suggestions that I gave him after he told me that. If you are outraged as well, write your local Congressman and the Department of Corrections in Sacramento about this.)
However, the rest of the event was absolutely flawless. The volunteers couldn’t have been better. The visiting staffs at both of the prisons let everyone in and made all the kids feel welcome! Everyone got plenty to eat and they all got their photos. The children and the moms had such a lovely day. There were smiles abounding.
I got to spend my morning with the moms at VSPW. Being in the room with a bunch of moms who haven’t seen their kids in a long time is not for the faint of heart. There were emotions surrounding and everyone had questions, which I was happy to be there to assist with, and everyone had stories. Many times, I end up getting the stories second hand because I am so busy; however, yesterday was different.
I received a call from Chaplain Sandy at VSPW on Wednesday of this past week about Angelina (above). Angelina had signed up for our program, but we had had a hard time contacting her family and therefore, they weren’t scheduled to go. Angelina got on the phone with me and pleaded. She told me that she hadn’t seen Aalize, 6, or Jonathan, 8, for 6 years. At that point, I knew we had to try to do something to help. We were able with the help of the prison staff to get her family on the bus. The morning of when I was talking with the women, Angelina came up to me with tearful eyes and said, “Maria, I am Angelina, thank you for helping me. You really went the extra mile.” My heart sunk.
Next was Lisa. Lisa’s family was coming on Joe’s Bus D-2. After Joe met with Lisa’s sister Yolanda (above), he was very moved by her story. Yolanda and Lisa grew up in a gang invested community and their entire family was always in trouble. When Yolanda and Lisa started to have children, Yolanda realized that the children had no positive influences in their life. This led Yolanda to do a 180 and change in order to be a role model for the kids. Yolanda now takes care of Robert, Lisa’s 7 year old son, who she hasn’t seen since he was born. On the morning of the bus, Joe called me and said that Robert was sick but Yolanda and her son showed up. He asked me what to do. I said if you have space just put them on. I was so excited that I made this decision because I later learned from Lisa that this was her first visit ever since she was incarcerated 9 years ago.
Lastly, I met Mary, who was also a part of Bus D-2. Her 17 year old daughter Samantha was coming to visit with two new additions- twin babies, who Mary had never met before. Mary paced the room waiting for the bus to arrive and I got to meet up with this family in the visiting room. The entire day Mary parading her new grandchildren around and she just couldn’t stop smiling.
These stories are just a few of what moved me most yesterday about the visit. On behalf of me and Joe, we would like to say “Thank you” for supporting our Bus D-2. You made a difference in the lives’ of many children yesterday. We are also very much in need of your continued support as we have had to add 5 extra buses to match the need for Father’s Day so if you can help, that would be great!!!