Happy Meals provide happy ending after 'Lunch Box' bus breakdown

Jeff Bobo • Jun 7, 2019 at 3:00 PM

CHURCH HILL — It was a happy day for several Hawkins County children who were delivered McDonald’s Happy Meals for lunch on Thursday after the Of One Accord ministry's Lunch Box school bus that serves the Church Hill area broke down.

But it wasn't such a happy 24 hours for Lunch Box program director Rita Jones, who received word on Wednesday night that one of her bus drivers had made a mistake and put gasoline into the tank of the diesel bus.

It could have been a major financial blow for the Lunch Box program and the ministry, which is always operating on a shoestring budget.

That’s not to mention the youngsters who might have been waiting Thursday for lunch that never arrived.

Once again, however, the Lord provided.

Jones contacted friend and former ministry co-worker Melinda Fields, who now works at Church Hill City Hall in the County Clerk's office.

"She went into work this morning and just rallied people, and started calling people and getting people she works with involved," Jones said. "The next thing I know, everything was taken care of."

Church Hill City Recorder Josh Russell also made a few calls and utilized his contacts in the church, recruiting First Baptist Church youth minister Mitch Russell .

Thanks to their help, the ministry acquired donations of free a tow by Josh Myers Towing to Surgoinsville’s Hilltop Auto, which agreed to repair the bus for free.

As for lunch, meals that were planned for the City Pool and other stationary locations were already prepared by the ministry. But, because the bus was out of service, they didn't anticipate making deliveries and those meals weren't prepared.

Thursday morning, however, Church Hill FBC offered two of its buses to make deliveries.

Fields and one of her co-workers, Lisa Godsey, pooled their money and bought about 30 Happy Meals for the children on those routes.

Mitch Russell said it was amazing how thrilled the children were when his bus pulled up and they realized what was for lunch.

"You just can't imagine how much joy a Happy Meal brought to these children," he said. "We were greeted with a lot of smiling faces. They got the hamburger, fries and the toy, and you could see that this was a really big thing for them. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it."

Church Hill FBC has agreed to loan its buses for Friday's deliveries as well, although it won't be Happy Meals. They'll be back to the regular "Lunch Box" menu on Friday, which is still pretty good.

As for Monday's lunch deliveries in Church Hill, that's still up in the air.

The ministry's Lunch Box program provides free lunches to children across Hawkins County on weekdays, utilizing old school buses that were converted into mobile cafeterias.

The disabled bus that serves the Church Hill area arrived at Hilltop late Thursday afternoon, and Jones was hopeful that it can be repaired.

"We have to hope that there's not any mechanical damage to it," Jones said. "Hopefully, they can just drain the tank and change the fuel filter and it will be OK. If we lose our bus I don't know what I'm going to do."