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Lunch Box bus breakdowns deplete funds for ministry's child feeding program

Jeff Bobo • Jul 6, 2020 at 1:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A series of unfortunate mechanical failures of the buses used in the Of One Accord ministry’s Lunch Box child feeding program has not prevented any meals from being delivered this summer.

Ministry Director Sheldon Livesay told the Times News, however, that the breakdowns have put a financial strain on the program, which is already operating on a shoestring budget.

Livesay said Of One Accord is accepting donations to help the organization continue the summer Lunch Box program, which delivers about 300 meals per day.

He said Of One Accord needs financial help to complete this season’s deliveries and to get the buses repaired and ready for next summer.

The Lunch Box program has two old Hawkins County school buses which have been converted into mobile cafeterias for delivering meals to children at various locations across the county.

“Our buses were purchased used from the school system, and one of them we bought in 2006, so it’s 14 years old after it was retired for being too old to be used as a school bus,” Livesay said. “The other we bought in 2012, so we’re getting good use out of them, but we’ve had multiple breakdowns this year. We were able to use the (ministry) van or some other vehicle to distribute meals while the buses were down, but it’s put an extra burden on the program.”

School buses are retired by the Hawkins County school system after 15 years of use.

So far this year, one Lunch Box bus had its batteries go dead. The buses each have two batteries which cost about $200 each, so that was a $400 expenditure to start the summer.

About a week after the batteries were replaced, the same bus lost an alternator, which cost $350. The ministry had just gotten that bus back on the road, when the vehicle’s starter failed, which will be another $300.

Now the second bus needs both batteries replaced, for another $400 expenditure.

“It’s just that all of this was kind of unexpected when we’re coming out of the COVID-19 epidemic. We’re trying to get the program going again, and it’s been setback after setback,” Livesay said. “We’ve yet to fail to serve a single child this summer. We’ve made it work, but it’s been a real stretch on the money.”

The program will continue using the same buses until the cost of repairs, such as for an engine or transmission, becomes more than the vehicles are worth. The cost of purchasing a “new” used school bus that has been retired by the school system is usually around $5,000.

The Lunch Box program is expected to serve approximately 13,000 meals to children across Hawkins County this summer.

Anyone interested in supporting the program can call program director Rita Jones at (423) 921-8036 or send a check or money order to: The Lunch Box Program, P.O. Box 207, Rogersville, TN 37857.

The Of One Accord ministry website (www.ofoneaccordministry.org) also has a donate button at the top where contributions can be made and earmarked for specific programs such as the Lunch Box.

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