DELRAY BEACH – Luckson St. Louis recalls walking in the blazing sun to the library during summer camp. His t-shirt was drenched from sweat after the 12-block hike.
“We would be so hot and tired,” said Luckson, a student at Village Academy in Delray Beach.
Za’Nyah Hayes too has stories about her experiences in KOP Mentoring Network, formerly Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network.
“I got so tired of Mr. C. Ron (Allen) packing us in his car to take us home,” the Village Academy second-grader said. “That car would squeak so bad you could hear it down the street.”
After three years of writing letters to auto dealerships in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the student’s dreams of getting transportation became a reality on Monday, Dec. 16 – just in time for Christmas – when city officials and residents gave them a 15 passenger van.
The students had to walk in the elements to the library where they received reading and homework assistance from volunteers, said Bobby Canatta, Chairman of KOPMN. “Sometimes they are too hot, tired and sweaty after walking the 12 blocks from the school to the library,” Canatta said. “Some of them were chased by dogs and a few were attacked by other students.”
Delray Beach Police Chief Tony Strianese learned of the organization’s needs and arranged for them to have the van, which was recently retired from the city’s fleet.
The police department for years transported the students on field trips but when the city traded the department’s vans, they were left without transportation, Strianese said. Officer Steve Swanson, who owns and operates Delray’s Finest Signs & Graphics, stepped in to do the graphics for the van.
And local general contractor Chuck Halberg went on Facebook and raised the money to insure and register the van.
“This is a perfect example of someone who is making a difference in our community,” said Halberg, owner of Stuart & Shelby Development. “I have known C. Ron for about five years and he is someone who walks the walk.” Allen, a longtime local journalist and editor of the Delray Beach and Boca Raton Tribune, founded the organization in 1991 to reinforce lessons of courtesy, responsibility and character in children ages 7 to 17.
The program has mushroomed since. Adult volunteers also take the children on field trips, help with homework and provide cultural activities and camps throughout the year.
“This is exactly why I continue to do the things I do for this community,” said Allen, founder and CEO of KOPMN. “I find that whenever I ask for something for the students in my program, there are residents who are always there to help me. That's the community spirit of Delray Beach.”
Allen said there are sponsorship and advertising opportunities for the van, which will be available for use by community organizations.