An agent of change during crises
By George Spencer
John W. Bailey likes to do for others. This longtime Rotarian is president of ABA member Bailey Trailways in York, Pa., and chair of the Pennsylvania Bus Association. His company has always done local nonprofit and charitable work, but his recent, spur-of-the-moment decision to help hurricanes Harvey and Irma victims created an avalanche of donations—in just a few hours!
His company began in 1998 with two buses. Bailey’s family has operated a separate travel business since 1933. Both companies have 105 employees, and he operates 27 motorcoaches, sedans, and vans.
The Insider caught up with Bailey—as he was on his way to give blood, no less—to learn more about his hurricane relief efforts. Here is his story in his own words:
God gives me the tools to help others, and I try to use those tools to help others.
We were contracted by TMS/FEMA (Transportation Management Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency) the morning of Monday, Aug. 28. Our three buses had to leave by 2 p.m. because they needed to be in Texas by a certain time. (Note: Bailey later sent three buses to South Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.)
When we got the call to send our buses, I did a quick email news release. A copy went to the York County Economic Alliance (YCEA). Its business outreach person called me, saying, “Let’s put out an emergency email blast asking our community to help. Let’s send the buses full of supplies!”
YCEA’s email blast said, “We need your help immediately. We need your donations here in four hours. The buses leave this afternoon.”
We posted the message on our company’s Facebook page. By the time we finished that day, we had 45,000 views. Nearly 4,000 people shared our post and 469 “liked” it. Within a week, we had 244,000 views. This reinforced my belief that social media isn’t just a fad!
People all over town dropped what they were doing and came to our offices in York, asking, “What can we do?” We had vehicles lined up all the way to the end of the street.
A truck pulled up packed full of diapers and a couple thousand rolls of toilet paper and paper towels for donation.
We called Home Depot and sent our service truck there. We couldn’t bring back everything Home Depot wanted to give us—dish soap, brooms, shovels, buckets.
Walmart said, “We’ll give you a skid of water.” We ended up sending a total of seven to nine skids of water and a total of 27 skids of food and household goods.
A local animal rescue group posted a request for donations on its Facebook page and sent 10 pallets of top-shelf dog and cat food.
We went to a clothing bank and got four to six skids of clothing.
A local businessman pulled in with two SUVs. He had gone to Walmart and bought entire racks of clothes.
My staff of 15 people dropped everything to pack vehicles. We needed someone just to handle the volunteers. We had more than 25 volunteers that day and about 200 volunteers in the following days.
We filled the buses’ storage areas, and we put boxes, food, and lighter things that didn’t fit below in seats—just to the tops of the seats, leaving the aisles open.
All our buses left by 2:40 p.m. After they left, people kept bringing stuff. I said, “We’ll keep collecting it!”
This all reinforces how wonderful it is that people come together in a crisis or tragedy. It doesn’t matter what color you are or what religion you are. It doesn’t matter where you come from.
We had people from a homeless shelter here. I’d called my contact there. He sent eight or nine people for a few days—drug addicts trying to get their lives together. It didn’t matter whether someone went to Yale or jail. You came, and you packed boxes next to presidents of companies, school teachers, and students. It didn’t matter what walk of life you were from.
I have friends in trucking, so I thought, “Let’s send a trailer load of supplies!” By 10 a.m. the next morning, we had a trailer, and we ended up with about 2,300 boxes. The boxes had been donated by a local box company! We went through them like they were nothing. By 10 a.m. the following day, we had another trailer full!
I tell you, I’m not in the motorcoach business, I’m in the begging business.
For eight straight days, people stopped what they were doing and came to Bailey Coach. All in all, we sent three buses to Texas loaded with 60,000 pounds of supplies. When they came back, we sent those same buses loaded with supplies to Orangeburg, S.C., to help Hurricane Irma victims. Two of them couldn't unload, and we later sent 11 tractor trailers filled with 500,000 pounds of supplies to both Texas and Florida.
To make a tax-deductible donation to help pay for the trucking of supplies, earmark your gift to the York County Community Foundation for “Hurricane Fund.” Read more.
George Spencer is a Chapel Hill, N.C.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to ABA media.
ABA has joined with Tourism Cares in its industry-wide initiative to help our friends and colleagues who have been affected by recent hurricanes. To donate or learn more, click here.