McDonald & Son Funeral Home and Crematory hosts a variety of community events for local senior citizens every year, from a “Classic Movie Day” to “Bingo and Burgers” and programs for Christmas and Valentine’s Day. But the company found that some seniors struggled to find transportation to the events.
One day, Al Richardson, the director of the company’s pre-need program, suggested a solution: McDonald & Son could offer its own bus service, free of charge, to those seniors.
So the company purchased a nearly-new 25-passenger Ford E450 shuttle bus to serve the communities around the company’s three funeral homes in Cleveland, Cumming and Dahlonega.
The bus is fully-insured and outfitted with safety cameras, a Bluetooth speaker system, exterior speakers, multimedia stereo and 40-inch flatscreen television. There’s an adaptor for mobile devices to connect to the stereo and television, and the bus is stocked with first-aid supplies.
“We really put a lot into making this a nice vehicle for the community,” said Lauren McDonald III, one of the funeral home’s partners.
The company also put a lot into getting ready for the new venture. Staff devoted as much as 30 hours to prepare for the commercial driver’s license test, between driving and studying the vehicle.
“It’s basically consumed our lives for the last month,” said Mandy Richardson, who works in the funeral home’s pre-need and aftercare programs.
McDonald & Son put the bus to use for the first time in late May when it transported a group of students to the American Legion Boys State program at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. A few days later, the funeral home took a group of seniors from Cumming First United Methodist Church to visit the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.
Word of McDonald & Son’s new free transportation service started to spread, and the funeral home has done seven trips in all in just a month and a half, with several more already scheduled. They’ll be taking a group of seniors to Chick-fil-A and another to casinos in Murphy, North Carolina. A local family reserved the bus to drive through the north Georgia mountains to see the changing leaves in the fall.
“It started out as one thing, and it’s quickly evolving,” Mandy Richardson said. “It’s kind of exciting to see how much the community’s embraced it.”
There are limits to the new bus service, McDonald III said. No alcohol or smoking is permitted on the bus. The service is for day-trips only, and the company’s insurance policy doesn’t permit large groups of young children.
“It’s really designed for our seniors,” McDonald III said, “people who don’t have vehicles to get around and be able to see stuff in our area.”
Added Mandy Richardson: “It’s our way to give back to the community.”