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Local Realtors association donates to RSS summer meal program

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Mike Davis loves a lot of things about his job, but a highlight is driving the Yum Yum Bus.

“It’s lovely,” Davis said.

The buses shuttle meals out to students during the summer months. Students get on board to enjoy their meal in the air-conditioned buses; there are books to read, too. Davis says he reads to the kids and even sings during his stops.

The buses were specially outfitted for the program by Rowan-Salisbury Schools, and a few years ago the Salisbury/Rowan Association of Realtors took an interest in the buses and decided to make them the beneficiary of the organization’s annual golf tournament, raising $1,500 for the program this year and presenting the money on Wednesday.

RSS Assistant Transportation Director Brian Moller said the Yum Yum Buses are decommissioned yellow school buses. The traditional seats have all been taken out so the buses could be outfitted with tables and benches that stretch the entire length. They each have a diesel generator and air conditioning as well. Moller said the original buses were equipped with gas generators.

Nutrition Director Lisa Altmann said the Realtor’s association donation will help add Wi-Fi connectivity to the buses so they can serve as hubs for students to use their devices.

Salisbury/Rowan Realtors CEO Carla Rose said the amount is a bit less than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic complicating the association’s annual golf tournament fundraiser, but she is expecting things to rebound next year.

The tournament, normally held in May at The Revival, was delayed until Sept. 24. There were no teams this year because of health concerns and the sit-down meal turned into a simple bagged lunch. Despite the difficulties, Rose said the association has already received commitments for next year. One player promised to bring at least two other teams to play next year.

“We’ve already got people fired up talking about next year,” Rose said.

The association wanted to add a book drive to the tournament this year as well, but that was also pushed back.

The regular donations to Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Yum Yum Buses dates back three years, when the association needed a new beneficiary. Rose said the association saw the need in the county for students who may not eat otherwise.

“This bus, what it stands for and what it does, it holds a special place in all of our hearts,” Rose said.

Realtors Association President Kellie Fisher said the kids are an important part of the community and the outreach benefits kids who need it.

“We just think it’s a great cause,” Fisher said.

Davis has been helping take care of the buses, making sure to run them occasionally and keep them clean while they have been idled at the district’s bus yard. This year, the summer meal program was replaced with mass meal delivery to students by yellow school buses during the pandemic, but Davis will get to drive one again soon because the nutrition department plans to use them to deliver meal packs to virtual students.

Altmann said most of the deliveries will help reach virtual students who may have transportation barriers to pick up meals during the day. The packs will have a week’s supply of meals that students would normally get at school and include cooking instructions as well.

Meals are available for pickup now, but Altmann said the department wants to address the needs some virtual students have first. The Yum Yum Buses are good candidates for delivering the packs because the sparse interiors can hold more and the department would not be charged reimbursement costs required to use activity buses.

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