Sept. 02--PANAMA CITY -- The Boys and Girls Club of Bay County is purchasing a trolley from Bay Town Trolley for $1 to transport young people to after-school programs.
The Bay County Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) last month chose the organization over two other churches that had made an application for the dirt-cheap trolley that was being disposed of by trolley operator First Transit.
The TPO, which is comprised of city and county elected officials, chose the Boys and Girls Club over two churches that had made a pitch for it after the club's executive director made a personal plea.
"We're having a dying need for transportation," said Paul Mosca, who has been with the organization for 24 years.
Mosca said his group currently transports young people to after-school activities in two old buses and two small vans.
"We could certainly use this vehicle to help bring kids to our programs, a place where they are kept safe every day, where they learn life skills, have homework assistance every single day, [participate in] recreation and sports leagues," he said. "You name it; we do it for children."
TPO member Walter Kelley, who also is Lynn Haven's mayor, said the Boys and Girls Club is a great program for the community. He said over the years he's had the "honor and privilege" to see the programs offered there and the good they were doing.
"They certainly do a great job down there," he said.
The other applicants for the trolley were First Providence Community Missionary Baptist Church in Panama City and Wellsgrade Performing Arts Christian School in Niceville.
Lucille Hearn, the principal of the school, said she was disappointed they didn't get the trolley, and if she knew applicants could make a pitch to the TPO she would have done so. She said the children in their nonprofit organization, which advocates for children with disabilities, would have been thrilled to ride a trolley.
"We have a performing arts Christian school. We help boys and girls," she said. "Most are underprivileged -- I'd say 95 percent of them -- and we needed transportation to transport them to and from different events."
The other applicant for the trolley was First Providence Community Missionary Baptist Church. Its application stated it offers a large mission outreach of feeding and clothing the needy, and also has a youth and senior ministry. The trolley could have been used to transport seniors and youth to and from worship services and to offer rides to people who don't have transportation.
Mosca said Friday that they haven't seen the trolley yet, which could seat as many as 40 people.
He said he was pleased he was able to show up in person to the TPO meeting to make his case.
"I think it definitely helped us to be there because none of other people who applied there got to tell their story in person," he said.
Copyright 2014 - The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.