BROOKFIELD – Working with children, their parents or caregivers is what’s expected of those who drive a school bus. Getting to know to know the families they transport and building relationships with them also comes naturally for All-Star Transportation employees.
So, it’s no surprise that when she’s not busy working as the manager at All-Star’s terminal in Brookfield that Debbie Jones volunteers at YoungLives of Danbury, a ministry for pregnant and parenting teenagers. The organization provides emotional support and services, such as life-skills education.
“It’s a great group, and they provide a lot of support,” Jones says. “A lot of these girls don’t get a lot of support at home.”
Jones first got involved with the organization when her then-15-year-old daughter, Brittany, was pregnant. One of Brittany’s friends had invited her to a YoungLives meeting.
“It was a place for her to go where she could talk to girls her own age in the same situation with peer bonding and mentors for support,” Jones says. “They also helped develop life skills and coping skills necessary for a teenage mom. It was a place where she was comfortable.
“YoungLives provides support in a teenage mom’s life when she is scared and very vulnerable,” she adds.
Now 21 and a driver for All-Star, Brittany has remained connected with the group. She’s a junior leader, making her a leader in training. She helps the group’s senior leaders build relationships with young mothers, and she tends to paperwork.
Four years ago, YoungLives asked Jones to get involved, and now she helps provide childcare while the young mothers hold meetings three times a month during the school year and twice a month during the summer. Currently, 15 teen moms are involved in the group, according to Allie Lasky, coordinator for the YoungLives Danbury region.
“Debbie plays a really important role,” Lasky says. “Without her, we would not be able to do what we do with the girls. Others also help from time to time, but she comes every time.”
“I enjoy the time with the babies, as well as helping other teenage moms,” Jones explains. “I can be there to support and encourage them. It is a way that I can give back for the support that they provided my daughter.”
In addition to childcare, Jones also volunteers her time to drive the young mothers to summer camp in upstate New York, something she has done for the past few years. This year, when the group lost its transportation, Jones took action. She reached out to Leslie Sheldon, All-Star’s operations manager, to inquire about renting a bus. Instead of billing the organization, Sheldon decided to donate a bus free of charge because Jones had already agreed to donate her time to drive.
So, this past Saturday, Jones made the four-hour round trip to and from the camp at Lake Champion in Glen Spey, NY. And she will make another trip later this summer. The camp is critical to the YoungLives program because it provides teen moms, their babies and their mentors with a few days of fun, allowing them to escape their daily routines and challenges.
“I’m always thanking her,” Lasky says of Jones. “Especially this year, when we found out we were losing our transportation. She took the initiative and also donated her time. It means a lot to us.”