The Do Good Bus: Volunteering to Hop Aboard and Help Others

by Dave Soref

Despite our best intentions, volunteering for a good cause is something we often put on a back burner simply because we don’t know where to start or are afraid of making too big a commitment too soon.

Well, what if volunteering meant hopping on a bus with a group of good-natured comrades and heading out together to do good at a prearranged destination? The Do Good Bus in Los Angeles is doing just that. This organization on four wheels is making volunteering fun and easy by creating instant community and taking the guesswork out of donating time to a good cause.

It’s of little surprise that Do Good Bus cofounder Rebecca Pontius discovered the inspiration for this new take on charity while having fun herself. “I decided to have a birthday party where we surprised all the guests, instead of the other way around,” she tells Calmful Living. “We had them show up with no idea what was going to happen or where they would be going, and then we put everybody onto a party bus.

“What was interesting to me,” Pontius continues, “was to see all these different groups of people come together who didn’t know each other beforehand but were relatively like-minded. Getting on the bus together, shoulder to shoulder, forced them to create community. It was a nice environment to be in.”

The birthday party was strictly for pleasure, but Pontius soon got the idea to combine the notion of the party bus with another of her favorite activities, volunteering. “I had been volunteering quite a bit and always had people asking me, ‘How do you get involved? How do you know if the cause is going to be good?’ If you Google volunteering, about five hundred choices come up. So some friends and I decided to combine the elements of creating community via a surprise with showing people how to volunteer.”

The Do Good Bus has one public ride per month that anyone can join, which typically runs on a weekend and involves a time commitment of four to five hours. Although the actual destinations are kept secret until you’re on the bus, rides are broken down into general categories—such as working with people, children, animals or the environment, or building something—so that you have a basic idea of what to expect before you hop aboard.

Recent Do Good Bus projects have included working at food banks, homeless shelters and community gardens, and painting a mural at a school. “We try to give it some variety to allow people the chance to be exposed to all kinds of things,” says Pontius.

“Initially we kept the destinations secret because we thought it would be fun to have that element of surprise,” she relates. “But we’ve learned that it’s actually good at helping alleviate any preconceived notions or hesitations people might have about getting on the bus, since everybody’s in the same boat—they don’t know where they’re going; and we do a lot of fun activities and team building on the way to the cause. Then when you get there, you dive right in and get to work.”

The Do Good Bus also has hosted rides for companies that want to do team building events, as well as for birthday parties and celebrations in general. “The other element we’d like to add in the coming year is what we’re calling ‘Do Good Bus field trips.’ We get a lot of requests from high school or middle school groups that want to participate but don’t have any budget to do so. So we’d really like to have a program where either companies or individuals can help sponsor field trips for kids to go and experience the Do Good Bus.”

One of the more unique chapters in the story of the Do Good Bus happened in 2011, when Pontius and crew hooked up with burgeoning indie-pop band Foster the People to accompany them for six weeks of a national tour that hit twenty-five cities in all. “Foster the People had been musicians for a long time in L.A. and knew that if they ever had a big fan base and a voice, they wanted to use it for good,” Pontius says. So, as the band played its shows from city to city, the Do Good Bus went with them, offering the opportunity for fans to hop on board, help out, and get to know each other better. “If we were in Chicago we’d be helping a Chicago cause, and people from Chicago would be getting on the bus, and so on.” Pontius explains, describing the tour as an overwhelmingly positive experience for all involved.

With a vintage Crown school bus currently being remodeled to serve as the official Do Good Bus, and potential interest in starting similar chapters in other cities, Pontius reiterates that it’s still ultimately about the cause. “Our goal is to encourage people to do it again; not necessarily to get back on the bus, but to be inspired to go back and volunteer at any cause that speaks to them.”

To learn more about Do Good Bus, click here www.dogoodbus.com.