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Holiday Missions and Traditions

Monday, December 23, 2019

Categories: Blog, Community

Photo of lots of presents under the tree

  • Bicycles for the family
  • A skateboard
  • Dress-up clothes
  • A winter jacketWoman in all black holding up a small minnie mouse costume

No matter the wish, CATA works hard every year to make it happen through the Operation Santa program. Over the years, the program has allowed CATA to team up with a local elementary school and provide Christmas gifts to hundreds of families in need.

“I love being able to give back to our community in such a special way,” says Pam Latka, CATA Marketing Manager. “I also love what it does for our employees. It gives everyone a chance to meet people within the organization, and involve their families in their community. It’s a good thing for us to do.”

Pam facilitates the Operation Santa program within CATA in creative ways, including a  year-long can drive that raises hundreds of dollars. Every November, she distributes over 100 gift wish tags to three Christmas trees within CATA facilities. Employees take as many tags as they are able, and purchase gifts for local families.

Presents are sorted and delivered to the elementary school, along with Scotch tape, bows and wrapping paper.  “We give them to the parents so they can wrap the gifts and give them to their children on Christmas,” says Pam.

Photo of bicycles in front of a treeOperation Santa has a special way of unifying employees toward a greater goal. A team of three maintenance workers adopted an entire tree full of wishes. Matt Oudsema, CATA’s Director of Planning and Development, has made it a family tradition to deliver the gifts with his wife and daughter. 

CATA has taken part in Operation Santa for the last 18 years, adopting 37 children in 2019, and 892 since the launch of the program in 2002. Employees have gifted everything from homemade teddy bears and crocheted blankets to bikes, remote control cars and train sets. 

“We often receive thank you notes from some of the kids or their family members,” Pam says. “Sometimes they will be addressed to Santa, so it’s fun to think that we are keeping these kids' Christmas dreams alive.”

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Caroling on the CATA bus

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Categories: Blog, Community

Rose Cooper took her act on the road in a new way this holiday season.

Cooper, who’s best known around greater Lansing as the singing motorcyclist, stores her beloved Harley-Davidson when winter arrives. But she didn’t let that stop her from singing her heart out on the city’s streets recently.

She hopped on a CATA bus to do some caroling.

It started out, as many things do, with a Facebook post: “At some point Friday afternoon, Kevin and I will be taking the #1 CATA bus from downtown to Meridian Mall and back; with the bus driver's permission, singing Christmas/holiday songs along the entire route. Wish us luck!”

Little boy shakes hand of bus driverWhen CATA got wind of Cooper’s plan, they looped in the driver and sent cameras to capture the trip.

“When we got on the bus, before I could even ask the driver if it was OK if we sang, he said ‘I’ve already heard about you.’ I was amazed,” Cooper said.

Cooper and her grandson Kevin, a first grader at Lansing’s Cumberland Elementary School, took the ride to bring cheer to Black Friday shoppers and give Kevin a bit of practice for his school’s upcoming choir concert.

“He’s a shy, sensitive kid, so he didn’t want to sing too much at first,” Cooper said. “But once I started, I could hear him going along.”

They boarded bus No. 1 at the CATA Transportation Center downtown and rode it all the way to the Meridian Mall, singing everything from “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” to “Jingle Bells” to “The Dreidel Song.”

“We decided we’d start a new song every time somebody got on,” she said. “It was like we were singing just for them.”

A few people sang along. One man even pulled a red nose out of his coat pocket and put it on as they sang “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Cooper said singing for the CATA passengers and staff was important to her.Little boy sitting in the driver seat of the bus

“When I ride my bike, the CATA people are the coolest people to ride with,” she said. “There’s no competition. They’re not trying to beat me to the light like some cars do. They’re not coming over into my lane. I love riding next to CATA buses, so this was my way of giving back to CATA.”

Despite Kevin’s shy nature, he was excited to climb into the driver’s seat once the bus reached the mall. Cooper said he secretly loves the buses.

“When I’m driving him in my car, he’ll see a CATA bus and ask me to stop so he can get on it,” she said.

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Craig Frazier: What If?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Categories: Blog, Community, Employees

What if?

That’s the question buzzing from our paratransit department lately. 

“What if the holiday spirit extended all year?” asked Paratransit Supervisor Craig Frazier in a department email. “If all the rules, boundaries and constraints were gone, what could we do to make our service better?”

Paratransit supervisor Craig Frazier at his desk

Some of CATA’s paratransit riders rely on our Spec-Tran service to take them to the Greater Lansing Food Bank. Each month, the food bank chooses a Saturday and a new location to launch a pop-up event.

“This often creates issues with our Saturday Spec-Tran service,” Craig said, “as the clients can’t always give us an exact return time.” He said for some clients, the food bank may provide a majority of their monthly groceries.

Thus, the paratransit department asked the key question: What if? 

What if we provided a special food bank shuttle for all participating Spec-Tran clients?

They answered this question last month, when they launched a six-hour bus run to the South Church of the Nazarene, November’s mobile food bank location. On a chilly, 20 degree day, volunteers of all ages set up food while our Spec-Tran picked up clients.

Greater Lansing Food Bank outdoor setup and volunteers

 

The Spec-Tran then drove these same clients home as they finished up at the food bank. They shuttled passengers in waves that accommodated their needs.

“This is just one example of what can be done to make a great service even better,” said Craig. The department is continuing to generate new ideas to enhance services.

What if all the rules and constraints were gone -- what could you do to help those around you?

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