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From Lincoln to the Club: Tuesday bus rides bring in more members

On Tuesdays, a Paul Bunyan Transit bus will be waiting outside Lincoln Elementary School in Bemidji to take youth to the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area.

The weekly one-way bus trip, which started Jan. 12, is funded through a grant received last year from the Drug Free Coalition of Northwest Minnesota.

The ride is free for youth and leaves Lincoln Elementary, located at 1617 Fifth Street N.E., at around 3 p.m.

"It leaves right after school," said Karl Mork, program director. "Instead of jumping on their home bus, kids can jump on our bus instead. It's a direct route; it doesn't stop anywhere else."

Because of the high numbers of youth riding the Tuesday bus, parents are asked to sign up their children ahead of time by calling the Club at 444-4171.

"The first week we were actually packed with 24 kids - they were sitting three to a seat; 17 of these kids had never been to the Club before," Mork said. "It was fun for the staff to have that new energy."

The idea for the bus stemmed from parents living in that area of town who expressed interest in the Club, but not being able to transport their children after school because of work, said Leonore Potter, executive director of the Club.

"With a free bus ride to the Club, parents are able to pick up kids starting at 6 p.m.," Potter said. "One of the national goals of the Boys & Girls Club movement is to strategize ways to reach more kids. One more way we're doing it through transportation."

Mork said the staff worried about rationing seats since the bus was full the first few weeks, so they used a bigger bus, which seats 30 adults.

The transportation grant will allow the Club to run the bus through the rest of the school year.

Mork said if current usage keeps up, the Club hopes to be able to fund bus transportation to the Club indefinitely.

"We've been able to reach out to populations we haven't been able to reach before and bring in new kids," Mork said.

"It's been pleasurable to work with Paul Bunyan Transit and Lincoln Elementary School. They've been really supportive of the Club and working with us."