TARPS Driver Finds, Returns $1,220 to Rider

April 18--Having just dropped off the last of his four passengers, bus driver Ron Guy of the Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service was tidying up the wheelchair straps in his bus one recent afternoon when he spotted a rolled-up $20 bill wrapped around a wad of paper on a seat.

But when he picked it up, he realized it was no mere wad of paper.

It was a fat roll of cash -- $1,220, all in $20 bills.

"I couldn't believe it was all money, just folded up in a big wad in the middle of the seat," Mr. Guy recalled last week. "I counted to a thousand, and then I quit."

And without hesitating, he radioed his dispatcher to report what he had found.

"I never even thought about keeping it," Mr. Guy said.

"I wouldn't have felt right about keeping that money. No way."

"I'm really proud of him," said Jon Elston, director of paratransit services for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority.

"We serve a community of people that have disabilities and sometimes need extra help. We want Ron to be our standard of customer service. We want to go the extra mile for our passengers."

Mr. Guy's passengers were developmentally delayed individuals he had transported from a Toledo community center just before he found the cash.

The money was returned the next day to the female passenger who lost it. Mr. Elston said he believes she had just cashed her monthly disability check and the cash probably fell out of her coat during the trip home.

"That's her whole month's income," Mr. Elston said. "She wouldn't have been able to pay her bills."

Mr. Elston forwarded a Blade interview request to the passenger's caregiver, who he said declined on the grounds that any identifying information about the woman could expose her vulnerabilities to the public.

Mr. Elston noted that TARPS' procedure for confirming to whom the money belonged revealed that the passenger was not fully aware of how much money she was carrying.

Mr. Guy already has received a shirt as a measure of appreciation for his honesty, and Mr. Elston said he is drafting a formal commendation to propose to the transit authority's board of trustees during its next meeting May 5.

A retiree from GM Powertrain in 2008 after 38 years there, Mr. Guy began driving part time for TARPS early last year. The job has proven to be "a lot more involved than I expected," he said, because of the help many paratransit riders need to get around, but he enjoys the work.

"Most of these people wouldn't ever get out of the house without this service," the Lambertville resident said.

"The customers and their families are very appreciative of what we do, and it makes you feel good."

"He's just doing this job because he likes being with people, and wants to keep busy," Mr. Elston said.

Mr. Guy said he was fairly confident whose money he found, based on where the passenger was seated during the trip home.

But TARPS dispatcher Julie Gill took no chances, electing to call the homes of all four passengers who had been aboard the bus to inquire if anyone had lost anything.

All responses initially were negative, Mr. Elston said, but the caregiver for the woman involved called back about 10 minutes later to report that her money had indeed gone missing.

The paratransit director said it is certainly not rare for riders to forget belongings on the bus, but finding cash or other things of "substantial value" is very rare.

"It's usually their backpacks, and we get a lot of cell phones, and wallets with a little money in them," Mr. Elston said, then adding, "It helps to know our customers."

TARPS service, which is offered to people in the TARTA coverage area whose disabilities limit or preclude their use of regular transit buses, is arranged by reservation, so a record exists of every person who boards.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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