Work on a second Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle is going full blast, but funding to keep construction rolling along has slowed to a trickle, those behind the effort say.
The first shower shuttle, operated by What Would Jesus Do Ministries – aka Church in the Park – was rolled out in early August last year and has provided hot showers to well more than 4,300 homeless and working poor, ministry leaders said Tuesday.
“We designed this bus to do 250 showers a month. The electrical system, without a generator, would do that,” said Doran Ott of Ott’s Auto Sales, who maintains the Church in the Park vehicles. He helped build the first Cleansing Hope shuttle and now is working on its sister. “But we came right out of the box at 500 (showers a month) and never left that.”
Hence the need for a second shuttle.
In January, Church in the Park bought a 2004 Ford E-450 Super Duty shuttle – same model as the first one, but a year newer and about 18 inches longer – for $100 at auction. It cost about $600 to have it shipped on a trailer from Sacramento.
It’s much smoother because we know where we’re going now, vs. before had to pioneer this thing, we had to dream it up as we went. This time, when we started demolition, we knew what to throw away and what we had to keep … We implemented some better tools into the equation this time.
Dean Dodd, president of Church in the Park, which operates the Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle
“We were told it ran and drove, and it did,” said Church in the Park President Dean Dodd. “But when we checked the dipstick, it looked like cappuccino, and it also had water in it. Doran found an Expedition at auction for $1,000 and pulled the motor out of it. A local businessman, an auto and fleet mechanic here in Modesto, put it in for us, changed all the hoses and belts and basically made it brand new. It’s a big V10 motor with low miles, so we’re good to go.”
The construction of the shower and changing areas, control room with tankless water heater, etc., is another matter. But already, progress on the second shuttle is “leaps and bounds” ahead of the way things went on the first one, Dodd and Ott said.
“The prototype was go forward then go back a little,” Ott said of the initial bus. “This one, we don’t have that issue. We know what mistakes we made, so we’re months ahead.”
We have to take the flex out of the bus or it will tear the wood apart. It takes a lot of engineering to figure that out – that’s why it took 11 months the first time. We got that figured out, so now we’re flying (on the second shuttle).
Doran Ott, on the wood frame that contains the shower portion of the shuttle
In just two months, the builders have surpassed what took seven months before, Dodd added. Work on the second shuttle is nearly halfway done. But Church in the Park has raised just more than half the $50,000 the second shuttle will cost, and donations are not keeping pace with construction.
Dodd said the church is grateful for all contributions. A supporter saw Cleansing Hope in action at Vine House Ministries and asked what was on the ministry’s wish list. Told that an $1,100 generator with a ground fault circuit interrupter was needed, he quickly hit up about 10 other people. Now, the generator sits right next to shuttle No. 2, ready when needed.
Another donor agreed to match donations up to $10,000, Dodd said, so church in the park scrambled to do fundraising to secure that. And a gofundme account had an “initial thrust that raised $7,000,” Dodd said, but now donations on that site are “dead in the water.”
First time out, the church had 11 months to allow money to trickle in as construction slowly advanced, Ott said. “Now, we’re $20,000 shy and this one’s going to get done a lot faster … We’re going to arrive at a point where we say the budget’s done and we have to wait for money to come in before we can go any further.”
We have had a few requests for the north Modesto and South Ninth Street areas. Ceres Unified School District asked if we could run a few hours later to get schoolkids who need us.
Kelli Ott, secretary of the Church in the Park board, on increasing demand for the Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle
Another issue is that when two shuttles are up and running, there will be increased operating costs, likely including the hiring of a couple people to help operate them, Dodd said. Church in the Park has to “get smarter” about using social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – to gain community support, he said. That support includes not just donations but commitments of essential volunteer hours.
The board also realizes the need to hold more fundraisers – spaghetti feeds, silent auctions and the like, Dodd said. And it’s working on budget information to present to the city of Modesto in hopes the City Council will approve a donation.
The Cleansing Hope Shower Shuttle operates from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays at Vine House Ministries, 523 Martin Luther King Drive; Wednesdays at Modesto Gospel Mission, 1400 Yosemite Blvd.; and Thursdays at the Salvation Army Citadel, 625 I St. To learn more, go to www.showershuttle.com or www.churchintheparkmodesto.org.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327