Waterloo bus driver teaches students

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Pictured, from left, are members of the Monroe County Shrine Club Ed McLean, Kyle Grosse, Kurt Grosse, Kary Eckrich, Kevin Doerr, Jim Jackson, Larry Godare and Art Juelfs, Miss Geri, Jake and Sean Watson and Becky Belanger of St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

A local bus driver for the Waterloo school district has used her sphere of influence to teach a valuable lesson to some students on her route and also provide donations to two children’s hospitals.

Known as Geri or “Miss Geri” to her passengers, she has developed a rapport that allows riders to share their thoughts and opinions with her. Sean Waston, a regular bus rider and soon-to-be fourth grade student at Gardner Elementary School in Waterloo, gave Geri food for thought that allowed her to provide a lesson in perspective.

“Sean kept telling me that he was flustered because kids don’t have a say in how things are,” Geri said. 

In response, she pointed out the fact that many children are born with or develop health issues and fight very hard for things they want, adding her goal was to show Sean that “children can accomplish great things.”  

Sean’s parents and brother Jake continued the conversation at home and  it inspired Geri to put her money where her mouth was. 

She raised over $3,000 to donate to local hospitals that specialize in helping children with medical issues. She received donations from ACE Hardware in Columbia, Indian Hollow Tree Service in Belleville and Ehlen Contraction in DeSoto, Mo., along with her own money and other individual donations from people who wished to remain anonymous.

“Whenever I worked some odd jobs or got tips, I would tuck the money away,” Geri said.

Becky Belanger, a Waterloo resident who works as a special events coordinator for St. Louis Children’s Hospital as well as members of the Monroe County Shrine Club on behalf of Shriners Hospitals for Children in St. Louis were on hand June 25 at Gardner Elementary to accept donations for the hospitals.

The event was a surprise for Sean. Geri said she wanted to inspire him by supporting the work that the hospitals do and showing him he does have a say in his present and future by reminding him that “children born with challenges work very hard to overcome them and then move on to other goals.” 

Kurt Grosse, Treasurer of Ainid Shrine in East St. Louis and member of the Shriners Hospital Board of Governors, thanked Sean and encouraged him to “keep inspiring people.”

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