RALEIGH — It was 24 years old, had an odometer with mileage deep into six digits and ran without air conditioning. But every day the big white school bus rescued more than 100 children from summertime boredom.
The decommissioned Chevrolet bus, bought from Johnston County for roughly $3,500, carried kids aged 6 to 17 to Boys & Girls Clubs around Raleigh, where they got all-day recreation and free lunch. Most of the kids came from low-income families, and nearly all of them rode from Parrish Manor mobile home park in Southeast Raleigh.
Then the bus quit running twice in four days, for good the second time in early July.
Its blown engine strands 135 children who would otherwise be finger-painting and practicing free throws.
They need to be there, not here, said Charles Parrish, owner of Parrish Manor who runs the nonprofit Nessie Foundation. Right now, theyre sitting here watching TV, driving Mom and Dad crazy.
Just off Jones Sausage Road, Parrish Manor is the rare mobile home park to win the citys Sir Walter Raleigh Award for outstanding appearance. Decorated in an old English theme, it features a castle with a drawbridge, a boulder with a mock sword thrust into it and a fishing pond with a plywood Loch Ness monster rising from the water.
As the nonprofit arm of Parrish Manor, the Nessie Foundation pays for children to attend summer camps, growing since 2006 from nine registered kids to 135, many of them teens. The bus, painted white with a green sea monster over the windshield, provided the only ride most of the kids could arrange. Driving through the mobile home park Monday, he passed five children who would otherwise be in camp.
Since the bus broke down, Parrish said, weve had 15 new kids wanting to sign up.
Losing that many kids had placed a dent in attendance at Raleighs Boys & Girls Clubs, which combine recreation, reading programs, art studios and computer training, said Hugh McLean, vice president of operations for the Wake County clubs.
We just hate theyre not at a club having a good time, he said.
Parrish has his eye on a replacement bus in Virginia, which will cost between $10,000 and $12,000 to get running. Its a newer model, 2006, and the Nessie Foundation would welcome any help with the purchase.
Otherwise, you might see the Parrish Manor kids pushing their old 88 down the road, squeezing out a few last miles out of the old clunker.