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How To Be A Citizen: Transportation Worker Goes Above And Beyond

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Running for office and serving as an elected official is certainly one way to serve your community, but it's definitely not the only way to get involved and help make a difference. Sometimes all it takes is seeing a problem that needs fixing and getting to work.

HEATHER PINDELL: Everything I started in the community grew a little stronger and a little stronger where people knew that Heather Pindell was going to do good for our kids and for our community.

MARTIN: Heather Pindell is a transportation supervisor for Jefferson County Schools in West Virginia. She spent 10 years driving school buses there. She says her job allowed her to get to see how people in her community were living and identify families who might need help. We spoke with Pindell last year about a program she helped start to help feed local children and their families during the pandemic.

PINDELL: I knew that our kids would be hungry. You know, we have five schools in Jefferson County that we do have free lunches and breakfasts for. So our goal was to keep them fed.

MARTIN: That's just one of the many initiatives Pindell has created to help students and families in Jefferson County over the last few years. She's probably best known in the local school system for a project called Stuff-a-Bus, where she partnered with Walmart and the county to provide book bags and school supplies for children who need them.

PINDELL: What I did was I drove my school bus to Walmart on a Saturday. And we gathered from our community. People went into Walmart, brought me back school supplies and book bags. And we actually was able to donate approximately 300 book bags filled with school supplies to our kids in Jefferson County.

MARTIN: The program was so successful Pindell is now planning to take it statewide.

PINDELL: We're one of the richest counties in the state of West Virginia. Why not reach out and help those other counties that need it?

MARTIN: So what inspired Pindell to get involved, volunteer and help improve things in her community?

PINDELL: I wanted to do something and make a difference. And that's my drive. I want to help people. When there's a crisis, let's do something and turn it around and make something better for our county and our world.

MARTIN: And while she was just named Jefferson County Schools' Service Person of the Year, Pindell says she does not need recognition.

PINDELL: The stories I could tell of the people that appreciated it and thanked me and cried to me and - that's what was important to me. That's why I do what I do.

MARTIN: And she says it is important that everyday citizens, as she describes herself, and not just politicians pitch in to make a better world.

PINDELL: It's just kindness. And that's what anybody can do in this world. It doesn't matter what you do and who you are. I'm fine being a Jefferson County transportation supervisor. I still want to donate. I still want to volunteer. And I still want to make a difference in people's lives.

MARTIN: That was Heather Pindell, a transportation supervisor in Jefferson County, W. Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.