Bus No. 2904 – it's the one Mike Pate has been driving for the past month.
Pate worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 32 years – the latter years as Postmaster of the city of Whitesville, Kentucky – before retiring in 2017.
“I enjoyed that work but it just kind of got old after a while," Pate said.
He spent three years in retirement until something drove him to go back to work, but this time not at the post office. In January, he read an article on how preschool students weren’t able to get to school because there weren’t enough drivers.
So he decided to help fill that gap.
“I thought well that’s something I might enjoy doing and I like kids, I really do," Pate said. "So I applied and got the job.”
He joined Daviess County Public Schools as a bus driver on March 1 and on April 14 he was officially on the road.
That was only the first example of pate’s commitment to seeing a need – and doing something to meet the need.
One morning, while driving students to East View Elementary School, he overheard a conversation he simply couldn’t ignore. Several children were talking about the school’s book fair and how they would not be able to purchase books because their parents didn’t have the money.
“I found out that a lot of them couldn’t afford to get books. The parents, they do a lot but they can’t do everything," Pate said. "It made me think about when I was a child. I come from a family of eight kids. My dad struggled to support us the whole time so I knew how these kids felt and so I just decided I don’t really need the money so what better thing than to give it to the kids.”
So Pate contacted the school and donated $1,000 dollars, helping more than 160 children at East View Elementary buy books at the school book fair.
EVES guidance counselor Levon Cozart called the donation “an amazing act of kindness.”
“He believes in education and wanted to give kids an opportunity to get a book,” Cozart said. “I let the kids know Mr. Mike bought their books because they are important and he cares for them, but he did not do this for publicity. In fact, the day he came in to talk to me about it, I had to ask his name. He didn’t even provide it as a means of acknowledgment.”
DCPS Transportation Coordinator Grady Cooper said he is thrilled with Pate's commitment and enthusiasm as a new driver.
“This is just an amazing story about how he saw a need and filled it, showing how deeply he feels for the bigger picture of working with children," Cooper said.
EVES students signed a giant “Thank You” card they made for Pate, many of them clutching to their precious new books as they signed.
Becoming a bus driver and signing a check, for Pate they're little things, but they’re making big impacts in the lives of so many children.
“I was there when a lot of the kids got their books and just seeing the smiles on their faces, it’s just amazing," Pate said.
The district is still short about 25 drivers and Pate hopes more people will step up to meet the need.
“It’s a great job," he said. "There are great people to work with, you get to interact with the children, it’s great.”
Because after less than a month behind the wheel, he’s found a new drive in life to keep moving him forward.
“Yeah I delivered through the post office," Pate said. "It’s kind of similar to delivering here, only the cargo is much more precious.”