The Angels of West Macon
by Paul Bayerl
Interstate 475 is the preferred route for southbound travelers heading toward Florida. It rolls gently off of I-75 at the northern end of Macon, bypassing the city to the west. It lies beyond the traffic, schools, shopping places, the county transportation system and of course job opportunities. The route connects north and south as it divides east from west.
Along the service road that parallels the bypass the 500 residents of two mobile home communities could hear the sounds of travelers moving along the corridor that separated them from the city. A group by the name of the Angels of West Macon came together late in 2008 with the idea of building a bridge over the rushing asphalt river. It would be a transportation bridge built of borrowed cars and volunteer drivers. It would be a bridge to connect them to bus routes, medical facilities and employment.
By the time they applied for a Self-Development of People grant in June of 2009, the group had grown to include 15 members. They were already making 20-plus trips per week to work sites, doctor’s offices, employment agencies and government offices. The work began with two cars on loan, three careful drivers, one volunteer mechanic to keep things moving and a scheduler. Scheduled routes were designed to maximize efficiency and minimize cost. Fees were set according to zones with discounts for paying by the week.
In a community where half the people have no access to transportation, the goal is to expand the service to include at least one more reliable car along with the necessary paid positions. In a community of 500 people the addition of 10 jobs is something worth noting. The five volunteers hope to turn their efforts into paid positions and add five more positions as the need increases.
A $20,000 grant from the National Self-Development of People Committee will provide the funds necessary for purchasing a good reliable car for the group along with a year's worth of insurance and maintenance. It will also provide a means of communication for drivers and dispatchers through the purchase of cell phones. The plan is to become independent of borrowed vehicles as ridership increases.
Self-Development of People is building a bridge west of Macon along a river of asphalt and steel and groups of angels are at work connecting people to opportunity.
Are you a member of a group of low-income persons working on issues of importance to you and your community, will working on these issues result in long-term positive change? Are you in need of financial assistance? Contact SDOP at (502) 569-5782 we would welcome talking with you and possibly hosting a community workshop in your area.
Paul Bayerl serves as Chair of the South Task Force for the Self-Development of People National Committee. Paul also serves on the International Task Force. He resides in Summerville, Georgia.
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I think this is a wonderful story of support and ideas coming together to become a reality. Many time all we need is a "win". A little support and someone or something to believe in people. Thank you SDOP. I hope you will be able to see our vision as well.