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Giving a Small Gift of Time

By on July 1, 2016

A very rewarding experience for everyone involved

When his employer in the textile industry closed the mill doors after 18 years, another door opened for Hale Swords of Jamestown, Kentucky. He found a truck-driving job with a company in nearby Somerset. It turned out to be more than just a job. Swords quickly turned it into a profession. He trained more than 50 students as a road trainer. He then advanced to be a certified CDL instructor for a company-sponsored, driver-training program.

After his previous employer was sold in 2002, Swords signed on with Epes Transport System of Greensboro, North Carolina. He hit the industry 20-year mark in January of this year. Through involvement with his church and the local community, Swords always had a special place in his heart for working with children. Seven years ago, he found a way to align those two interests in a way that added a very rewarding dimension to his life. He signed on with Trucker Buddy International. The fact that his daughter was a member of his initial class also motivated him.
After a time out of the program, he connected with Tammy Egnew, a 5th grade teacher at Salem Elementary School in Russell Springs, Kentucky, for the 2014-15 school year. Two classes participated in the Trucker Buddy program. They formed a great teacher-Trucker Buddy relationship that resulted in Swords being honored as an Outstanding Trucker Buddy at MATS 2015. Egnew was honored as an Outstanding Teacher at MATS 2016. To the class, Swords is respectfully known as Mr. Hale. Swords in turn respectfully calls her Miss Tammy.

Traveling Teachers Aid

Not knowing what to expect, Miss Tammy initially thought that history would be the logical connection. The relationship quickly expanded to writing and reading, and is even put to good use in math, geography and social studies.

“The students really became attached to Mr. Hale,” said Miss Tammy. “They couldn’t believe that he cared enough about them to bring his truck to school, spend time with them and engage in weekly communications from the road. In addition to regular e-mail communications, students loved to talk with Mr. Hale in person and via a speakerphone. In their eyes, he took on the status of a super hero. Some of these children have never ventured beyond Russell County. They now see professional truck drivers in a whole new light. Some even want to make it their profession, too.
“When Mr. Hale was nominated for Outsanding Trucker Buddy, the students worked very diligently crafting personal letters of recommendation. Based on their comments, it was quite amazing to see how connected the children had become to Mr. Hale. It was very evident that he had impacted their lives in a very positive way. When Mr. Hale won, they couldn’t have been more proud knowing that their letters actually helped him win this honor.”

Endless Rewards

For Mr. Hale, the honor provided a nice reward. More important are the rewards that he receives every week in the form of communications from the students. “I’ve saved every letter, every communication that I’ve ever received,” said Mr. Hale. “Some of them have even made me cry. It’s always amazing to me that the time you spend with the students and communicating with them from the road has such a huge impact.

“When I visit school or send photos documenting my travels, I like to ask questions that make the students think. Frequently, the questions require some research or digging. Their answers indicate they’re engaged in the process and expanding their knowledge base. Who wouldn’t feel rewarded when that happens? The students also like to ask me questions from time to time. Then I’m the one who has to do some research before providing my answers.

“It’s also great to have the support of my company and my boss, Tina Valois, Epes fleet manager. In preparing for school visits, the company is usually able to provide a small gift for every student. It might be a pen, a cup, a glass, a key chain or some other useful item. These small gifts are always appreciated. If any driver has ever thought about joining Trucker Buddy, I would recommend that he or she give it a try. The rewards are truly much greater than you can ever imagine.”

About Trucker Buddy International

Since starting in 1992, Trucker Buddy International has helped educate more than one million schoolchildren in grades K-8 under the supervision of their teachers. The contributions of caring, compassionate men and women truck drivers create lasting impressions about the individuals and their companies. The on-going success of the program is due to driver volunteers, participating teachers and the contributions of sponsors. There is no cost to the drivers and teachers who participate in the program. The Trucker Buddy program is funded entirely by sponsorships and donations. If you would like to make a donation and/or learn more about becoming a Trucker Buddy, visit TruckerBuddy.org.

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