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The vehicle’s unveiling was a surprise for club members and employees

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson recently received a new vehicle from Bridgestone Retail Operations to provide youths with more opportunities to attend recreational and educational field trips.

Bridgestone awarded a seven-passenger 2019 Toyota Sienna for all six Tucson clubs to use as needed. The vehicle was part of Bridgestone ‘s “Driving Great Futures” grant program, a nation-wide partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of America to provide youths with transportation to attend events. 

The vehicle’s unveiling was a surprise for club members and employees, and it is already being used to get students to after-school activities. 

“At opening, we usually have a staff member in the van going to schools for pick-up, “said Debbie Wagner, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson. “We know that we have kids that want to be able to come but don’t have the availability of transportation. We always have a waitlist.”

Wagner said most members walk to school when they cannot ride in BAGC Tucson vehicles.

“At some schools, we are able to pick members up using our vans,” she said. “[The grant] helps expand our opportunity for that and also for our kids to go on more field trips.”

The vehicle allows BAGC Tucson to get their members to multiple educational opportunities, including the STEM Center of Innovation at Holmes Tuttle clubhouse and children’s science games program at Steve Daru clubhouse.

“We have 3D printers and other equipment to do elaborate activities. Sometimes we will bring our kids from other clubhouses over to participate in that program,” Wagner said. 

Elizabeth Robles’ son is a member of the Tucson organization, and he rides in the club’s vehicles. Although she can drive her son to trips, she said the new vehicle makes it easier for her and other parents.

“I do see a lot of parents that walk,” Robles said. “They don’t have the capabilities of driving their kids. It would be nice for those kids who don’t have the transportation to have an opportunity to go [on field trips.]”

Boys and Girls uses a first-come-first-serve system to decide which members can attend a field trip. Members must return a signed permission slip to attend an event. There are no additional fees for members to travel in the vehicles. Employees attend classes to ensure safe driving practices.

Allan Bieniuch, area manager for Bridgestone, said his company is planning more activities to build on its strong relationship with Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson.

“We are in the process of putting together car-care clinics,” he said. “Some youths from the clubs can come to the locations and we can show them the value of checking tire tread and other basic things about vehicles to help their skill-set and to help them with day-to-day issues.”

Bieniuch added that Bridgestone has already discussed financial compensation expectations for vehicle repairs with Tucson club personnel. He said the company’s branches “will help them out and service their needs. If they have any needs with Bridgestone brand tires, we take care of that for free.”

Phillip Bramwell is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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