By Erin Miller | firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Kelly Gibbs
Steve Meehan, Flagler College junior and college ministry intern at Good News Church, goes to Panama Hattie’s every Thursday night to drive people home.
Meehan and Andy Hirko, College Director at Good News, began taking the church van to Hattie’s, a popular drinking spot for locals and college students. They go from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursday, commonly referred to as “Sink or Swim” night.
“I wanted to do more things for other people,” Meehan said. “I think this is the beginning of a service that will have great impact on the community.”
Meehan and Hirko began this service in January. Meehan will go into Hattie’s — at no charge — and socialize with people, asking if anybody needs a ride home. He will hold a sign that says “Free Rides Sponsored by Good News Church.”
“The bouncers are appreciative of the service and always willing to let me in,” Meehan said. Meehan rides along with Hirko who is the only one permitted to drive the church van. They make three to four trips a night and take home approximately 30 people every Thursday.
Meehan said he will even find out where people’s cars are parked and drive their car to their house, give them a safe ride in the van and leave their keys in the mailbox.
“Many people who choose to drink and drive do so because they are concerned about leaving their car overnight,” Meehan said. “College students have class early in the morning and they don’t want to be without their car in the morning.”
Katie Kass, a senior at Flagler, has been given a ride home on the van. “College students don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on taxis so a free ride home is very generous,” Kass said “It’s a safe alternative to jumping into whatever car will take you home.”
Meehan said they never turn anyone down. “We have driven people anywhere from 21 to people in their mid thirties,” Meehan said. “We have driven to homes anywhere from SR 16 to the St. Augustine Shores.”
“I think what they are doing is wonderful and a great service to not only Flagler Students but to the Saint Augustine community,” Kass said. “I would recommend them to anyone who asked.”
There is only one church van so as the demand increases for a ride, the pressure is on to get back to the bar and make another round. “I get text after text from people asking if they can get a ride home in the church van,” Meehan said.
Meehan said the service has seen some issues. “People with alcohol poisoning that need medical help, intoxicated people resisting our help and angry taxi drivers that think we’re taking their business to name a few” Meehan said.
According to DUI-USA, in 2007 there were 58,824 people arrested in Florida for driving under the influence and in 2008 there were 792 fatal accidents in Florida where at least one driver had a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of 0.8% or above.
Having resources like the Good News Church van provides a reliable, safe, and inexpensive option to those who are consuming alcohol at the bar. It may just be one van at one bar on one night of the week, but its one step toward change.