National Church Residences’ Dallas keeping people mobile – and laughing

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National Church Residences Transportation Manager Judy Dallas performs stand-up comedy at the Columbus Funny Bone comedy club.

By LANCE CRANMER                                                               lcranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org

COLUMBUS — Whether it’s driving a Greyhound bus or coordinating a fleet of busses to transport seniors, Judy Dallas knows that some things are universal.

“In transportation it’s all the same,” she said. “It’s people. They have to trust you. It’s different and it’s the same.”

Years back when Judy drove a Greyhound for a living, she made frequent short trips that kept her relatively close to her home and her daughter.

“You can only drive for 10 hours. I could get as far as 10 hours would take me,” she said. “Columbus to St. Louis and then go to bed. Tennessee, Chicago, Pittsburgh. I really stayed Midwest. I had a child at home.”

Today, with her daughter grown up (and also a National Church Residences employee), Judy said that it would be a different story.

“I’d be going to California, Florida, anywhere!” she said. “Once you get to a place you can just hang out there and make your way back home. But then there’s the whole thing of living out of a suitcase, literally.”

To make a little bit of extra money back in those days, Judy worked nights as a stand-up comedienne.

“I used to do comedy in the 90s with people like Sinbad and Cedric the Entertainer. We were just doing local clubs,” she said. “I was just a single parent doing it for the extra money. They wanted me to go on the road with them, but I had to stay home and be responsible.”

Eventually Judy owned her own transportation business. But when it fell on hard times she came to work for National Church Residences.

Judy initially joined the organization to drive one of the busses that serve the clients of National Church Residences Center for Senior Health.

Today, as the Transportation Manager, she is driving the efforts of the whole transportation department as it moves toward expanding its services to a wider group.

“We are now fundraising,” Judy said.

Beginning in the New Year, the transportation team in central Ohio will start fundraising with the goal of amassing $10,000 to go toward providing more transportation options for seniors.

“We want to be able to provide transportation to, not only our buildings, although they will be the main recipients, but to other apartments as well,” Judy said. “We will be doing different types of fundraising. Our drivers will be doing payroll deductions. We want to do a (fundraiser) later in the year. We have some vendors and corporate sponsors that will help.”

Judy estimated that a trip using a bus that holds 14 people costs around $170 each way.

“They send us a request and they can use the funds from our foundation to provide transportation for that group,” she said. “If a building wants to do more transportation, they can hold a fundraiser. If they can raise at least $100, we will match it and provide the transportation.”

Donations to help fund the transportation services can be sent to the attention of Van Ambrose, Vice President of National Church Residences Foundations, at the home office with the specification that it is for “CSH Transportation.”

Judy said that in Columbus and Franklin County, National Church Residences currently has the area’s largest transportation fleet – next to COTA (Central Ohio Transit Authority).

“Currently we have 30 vehicles,” she said. “We’ve always had more, but some of them were older. We had to retire faster than we could acquire. But we have 23 busses right now along with seven other vehicles. And one-third of our fleet runs on propane, which makes us certified as a ‘Green Fleet.’”

Where the larger busses get about 8 mpg, Judy said that some of the newer, smaller, vehicles get as many as 22 mpg.

“We have a diversified fleet and we’ve gone with more economical vehicles,” she said.

Having as large of an impact on transportation needs as National Church Residences does, Judy joined forces with the Ohio Transportation Equity Coalition in December to ask Ohio Governor John Kasich, “to increase Ohio’s investment in accessible, affordable and sustainable transportation options.”

In the letter sent to the Governor’s office, it is highlighted that Ohio currently ranks 47th nationally in its commitment to public transportation and cites a study from the Ohio Department of Transportation that said Ohio needs $192.4 million in capital and $96.7 million in operating funds to meet existing needs.

“We’re part of a movement and trying to make a difference in the state of Ohio,” Judy said.

A little more than a year ago, Judy returned to the stand-up comedy stage as well – this time as a gospel comedienne who tells clean jokes only.

“I had lost my business and my home and my fiancée died. I turned to my faith,” she said. “God spoke to me. I wanted to teach Sunday school or something. God spoke to me and said to go back to stand-up comedy. I was like, no, this isn’t funny.”

Over the past few months Judy has been booked to perform  around 15 shows – including at the Columbus Funny Bone – and she’s done it all without trying to promote herself.

“It’s all been word of mouth,” she said. “I like to say that God is my promoter.”

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