By Mari Pothier | firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Hirko’s passion for his religion and concern for the students at Flagler College is evident the moment you meet him.
Hirko, a former Flagler College baseball player who was recently inducted into the Flagler College Baseball Hall of Fame All Decade Team, is now the college minister at Good News Church. Wanting to serve the campus, Hirko has started a program that offers free rides home from the local bars.
Hirko and Steve Meehan, a senior, drive to Panama Hatties on Thursday nights in the church van and hold a sign saying, “free rides.”
“We just want to be a light to the campus and community,” Hirko said.
According to the Associate Dean of Students and Chief Judicial Affairs Officer Dirk Hibler, there has been one DUI this semester and two last semester.
“We’ve been fortunate to have no one hurt,” Hibler said.
The reason for Hirko starting this program is to keep students safe and maybe in the process, help students look at church in a new light.
“We’re not going out to preach,” Hirko said.
Hirko and Meehan don’t stand outside the bar with the sign the whole time, but go and socialize with the people there.
“They’re my friends and I like hanging out,” Meehan said.
The reason for Meehan’s involvement is the fact that he has been in their shoes. Involved in drugs and drinking earlier in his life, Meehan turned to his religion and left that lifestyle behind.
“I have a heart for them,” Meehan said.
The owner and bouncers at Panama Hatties love what Hirko and Meehan are doing for the students and let them into the bar every week for free.
According to Meehan they have brought home an estimated 90 people and will also drive student’s cars home for them.
In their four weeks of providing this service they have helped save a man’s life who suffered from severe alcohol poisoning and was left alone by his friends.
“We’re there to serve,” Hirko said.
They generally go out around 10:30 pm and return home around 2:00 am. Meehan said he usually gets three to four hours of sleep those nights even though he has class in the morning.
“The whole purpose is to serve others,” Meehan said.
Hirko and Meehan knew from the start this was not going to be easy.
“We knew we were going to get our hands dirty,” Hirko said.
Hirko and Meehan plan to continue the program until the end of the semester.
“We’re there for protection,” Meehan said. “I want to be there to help.”