For years Project Help has been working toward converting an old school bus to serve as a "mobile closet" to be stationed at events such as job fairs, to help veterans and their families. The vision was to fill the bus with supplies for veterans and to staff it with people who could help with resume preparation and even provide haircuts.
It all started when Sandy Mitchell, Executive Director of Project Help, reconnected with an old friend, Mike Miller, who owns George’s Salvage. She told him about her vision for helping vets with clothing and employment. Miller got the wheels rolling by donating a school bus to Project Help.
“That was the lynchpin of our project," said Mitchell.
The excitement stalled for a time, but then Karl Broton, of Broton Contracting donated and installed custom drawers, cabinets, a wood floor, metal hang rods and other materials.
The effort stagnated again when faced with painting a bus that is 11 feet tall while paint booths are only 10 feet tall. Even if the tires were flattened, the bus still wouldn’t fit into the booth. So the bus remained unused until one day at a Joint Base McGuire, Dix, Lakehurst event, Mitchell told Painters and Allied Trade Union's Bernie Cooke about the challenge of painting the donated bus. Cooke said, “Don’t paint the bus, wrap it."
His plan worked, yet the bus, which had been sitting unused for two years, still had issues.
“The brakes were bad until another community hero, Mike Merle of All County Transmission in Sussex, made magic happen for us," said Mitchell. “All new brakes were done and at no cost.”
The last challenge was the hidden rust that was discovered by Dave Castner of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (S.M.A.R.T.). He made final repairs that included removing the rust, rebuilding the front stairs, and building a back exit.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, 2019 a ceremony will be held at Sussex County Community college in Newton, where plaques will be presented to all of the volunteers who made the bus a reality.
The event will commence with networking at 5:30 p.m., followed by a short ceremony with color guard by Gunnery Sergeant Jeremy Curcio USMC and the Boy Scouts, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and then the National Anthem by professional opera singer, Frank Basile. After a short presentation by Project Help, New Jersey State Senator Steven Oroho (R-24) will say a few words. Then the bus will make its official debut in Sussex County, escorted by the American Legion Riders.
Refreshments will be provided by Applebees of Newton.
The public is invited but registration is required. To register, visit https://bigbusrevealtickets.eventbrite.com.
Project Help is a registered 501(c)3 charity with a mission to support veterans and their families in times of need and to help them with a career path to relieve financial problems. Visit www.projecthelp.us for more information or contact 973-875-2068.