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The Journal Gazette

  • Northwest Allen County Schools bus drivers, from front, Natalie Zehr, Brandy Meerzo and Susie Haines hand Christmas packages to fellow driver Sherri Bradley on Friday. The NACS transportation team filled the bus with dozens of gifts to be delivered to three adopted families. (Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette)

Saturday, December 23, 2017 1:00 am

Santas on the school bus

NACS drivers deliver gifts, joy for 3 adopted families

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

A big yellow school bus doubled as a sleigh Friday morning.  And a group of bus drivers for Northwest Allen County Schools transformed themselves into elves.

A few months ago, the drivers decided to create some Christmas magic for needy families of children on their routes. After all, they were often on the receiving end of Christmas gifts from their passengers.

The drivers consulted school guidance counselors for suggestions, set up a giving tree with 80 tags, one per driver, and picked people for whom they'd buy wish-list presents.

On Friday, elves Natalie Zehr, Brandy Meerzo and Susie Haines delivered the gifts to Huntertown Elementary School. Two piles of boxes and five big shopping bags stuffed with presents were destined for a single mom with two children, they said.

The bus also visited Perry Hill Elementary. Drivers provided gifts to one family chosen from among their number.

“We thought what better way to embody the holiday and do a little giving to our community,” said Zehr, 39, of Huntertown. 

Meerzo, 41, of Leo said she was taken a bit aback by some of the wish-list items, such as bottled water.

But it felt “awesome” to make Christmas for the families, she said of the project, a first for the drivers.

“I just loved looking every day at the tree with more and more gifts coming in. I feel blessed to work with the wonderful people we work with,” she said.

Among presents provided were toys and games, pajamas, warm clothing, boots, hats, gloves, household supplies and “a lot of gift cards,” Meerzo said.

Zehr said the families remained anonymous. School officials know who they are, she said, but the drivers don't – and they want to keep it that way.

“I just like to give,” said Haines, 52. “That's what I like about Christmas the most.”

rsalter@jg.net