Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

School bus drivers across North Carolina have been shown a little extra well-earned attention this week during School Bus Driver Appreciation Week, as individual schools and districts recognize the drivers with various events and celebrations. Nationally, February is Love the Bus month, aimed to raise awareness and appreciation for the safe experience of riding the bus to and from school. The Macon County Board of Commissioners, along with the Macon County Board of Education wanted to recognize just one of the county’s dedicated bus drivers Tuesday night.

For the last 40 years, Wenona Curtis has faithfully served children in Macon County as a bus driver for the school system. Curtis is the first face the children of South Macon Elementary School see in the morning and the last before they return home. While her job is to get students safely to and from school, her heart leads her to do much more than that and for her diligence, the Macon County Board of Commissioners recognized Curtis on Tuesday night.

During one of the harshest cold spells this winter, a little girl climbed the steps of  Curtis’ bus wearing nothing more than “what I would call a rag wrapped around her shoulders,” said Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale. Curtis asked the girl why she didn’t have on a jacket considering the temperatures were in the single digits and the little girl just responded, “I don’t have one.”

“That just tugged on my heart strings,” said Curtis. “I would like to think anyone would have felt the same way and wanted to help too.”

Curtis first went home and rummaged through her own closet hoping to find something suitable for the child, but was unsuccessful. A light bulb went off and Curtis remembered that the annual Cold for a Cause event held by Patrick Jenkins had just concluded and she knew that the event collected coats and blankets for the community in need. Curtis tracked down Jenkins’ phone number and called him to ask for help.

Jenkins told Curtis to go to CareNet, where all the donations from Cold for a Cause are taken, and explain to them the situation and to get the little girl a coat and Curtis did just that.

“I have no doubt that that coat was not the first coat Curtis has tracked down for a student in need or the first time that she went above and beyond to help our children in Macon County,” said Beale.

Curtis promptly interrupted Beale and interjected, “Oh, most of the time the children help me,” she said.

On behalf of Macon County, Beale presented Curtis with a replica Macon County flag to show the county’s appreciation for her dedication and diligence.

Along with Curtis, Beale presented Patrick Jenkins with with a replica flag of the county to thank him for his annual efforts with the Cold for a Cause event, which has collected more than 35,000 coats and blankets for those in need over the last nine years the event has been held.

While Macon County CareNet has resources available for students and children in need, the Macon County School System also has a clothing closet available that accepts donations throughout the year and is available for any student who may need a coat, or other clothing item.

Schools across Macon County put in extra effort to thank bus drivers this week with special events and appreciation days. Susan Thompson’s Foods Class at Franklin High School baked cookies for the FHS bus drivers on Wednesday to give out to FHS drivers on Thursday.