Students unload as two buses from the Jackson YMCA pull into Tripp's Auto Shop on Wednesday morning, June 27, 2018. The kids and other officials from the YMCA came to thank Tripp's and owners Phil and Barb Tripp for repainting and body work on the new buses. (J. Scott Park | MLive.com)

Originally posted June 27th, 2018
M Live
by Mitchell Kukulka

JACKSON, MI – Two brand-new 72-person buses sporting the Jackson YMCA’s logo and signature blue paint job can be spotted across Jackson County this summer.

Thanks to a sizable donation from the John George Jr. Student Loan Fund, and new paint and body work courtesy of Tripp’s Auto Shop & Collision Center, Jackson YMCA added the new buses to its fleet – the first new vehicles the organization has received since 2002.

On Wednesday, June 27, Jackson YMCA packed the new buses with more than 120 kids for a visit to Tripp’s Auto Shop to say thanks.

“It was a huge project – definitely a labor of love – so that’s why we wanted to thank the whole (Tripp’s) staff,” Jackson YMCA CEO Shawna Tello said.

The relationship between Jackson YMCA and Tripp’s Auto Shop began nearly a decade ago, when founder Phil Tripp’s vehicle was placed next to a YMCA bus during a Rose Parade. Tripp noticed the poor condition of the buses and offered to repaint the whole fleet, Tello said.

“Part of our business model is to give back to the community, so we’ve been (painting) church buses and (YMCA) buses for years,” Tripp said. “Since we opened our doors, we knew we needed to give back to the community, and we look for good organizations to help out.”

The cost to repaint and reupholster the two vehicles was about $9,000 for each bus, Tripp said.

Jackson YMCA bought the buses using a $120,000 donation it received from the John George Jr. Student Loan Fund.

“We support the (YMCA) in a number of ways because we believe in everything they do – they do great work for the kids in the community,” John Kane, John George Jr. Student Loan Fund trustee, said. “It’s very gratifying to see the kids have nice, new (and) safe buses that look awesome and represent (the YMCA) and the community.”

Tello said Jackson YMCA is unique among YMCA chapters because it offers after-school pick-ups with its buses for children involved with the program. Jackson YMCA has been running after-school bus-in programs and travelling day-camps since the 1960s.

“The youth programming we do, we couldn’t do without these buses,” Tello said.