Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seems an especially fitting inspiration for a community service project during Black History Month.
“As Dr. King would say, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’” said Connie Z., one of a dozen Santander Consumer USA (SC) associates who participated in the project.
Volunteers helped students of several Dallas-area schools create “vision boards” to inspire a work by a local artist that will be installed permanently in a bus stop in the historical black Hamilton Park neighborhood “for patrons to see and celebrate.”
“Working on the Bus Stop Project was awe inspiring,” said Connie Z. “I was able to see the joy and the desires of the young students we had the privilege to work with, and their joy brought me joy.”
“Together, we develop art that tells the stories of Dallas neighborhoods, as seen through the eyes of the students,” an organizer explained. Volunteers lead group discussions “about students’ experiences in the neighborhood, history of the community and hopes for the future.”
“One of the most meaningful and enlightening parts of this activity was hearing directly from the students about their personal life experiences with the area – the good and bad,” a volunteer said recently after a previous “visioning” session. “Listening to the brilliant ideas they had on how to bring a sense of pride, safety and community to that [bus stop] location.”
These, too, were fitting reminders of the purpose and significance of Black History Month.
“Being a volunteer for this school project was an honor,” said Rodrigo F., who, along with the others, took advantage of SC’s volunteer paid time off program (VPTO). “It’s a way to pay it forward and give back to a school system that provides the tools to succeed … The opportunity that Santander provides us with volunteer hours to reach out to the community is commendable.”
This session was the second in which SC volunteers participated, with artworks scheduled for unveiling in March near the Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet Elementary School and Lake Highlands High School.
The Bus Stop program was one of more than two dozen recipients of SC Foundation grants that totaled almost $2.2 million in 2019 in Texas, Arizona and Colorado. Such commitment enabled Santander Consumer to contribute nearly 25,000 hours for community volunteer activity in 2019. SC associates were encouraged to get involved with grant recipients in particular.
“Volunteers really are the glue that holds the Bus Stop Project together,” said Ashley Flores, Bus Stop Project chair. “They facilitate our Art Visioning Days, meaningfully connect with students and help us realize the vision of public art that tells the story of the surrounding community … Santander Consumer has been an incredible partner in this work.”
As in most cases, the activity seemed to affect the volunteers nearly as much as the beneficiaries.
“I am grateful to work for Santander, which allows individuals to answer the call of aid to others and accepts the responsibility to lift others across communities in need,” said volunteer Kirk A.
“As one young student eloquently stated,” said SC’s Billy B., “‘I will be the first in my family to attend and graduate from college. But my real goal is to be an example to my little brothers that you can achieve your life’s desires through dedication and hard work.’”
“Simply humbling,” said the volunteer.
The Bus Stop Project is a collaboration of the Mayor’s Star Council (and affiliated Rising Star Council, which involves Dallas area students), Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), local artists, and others, as well as a community sponsor – in this case, the Santander Consumer USA Foundation.