FREEPORT, Texas -- Owners of a church bus damaged by teenage vandals got surprising support from a school janitor.
Imagine leaving sunny Los Angeles for Freeport, Texas. Margarita Rodriguez cannot explain it. After 26 years as a school janitor for Brazosport ISD schools, she cannot leave, either.
“This is my home,” she said.
Fleming Elementary school students consider Rodriguez an extra grandmother. She feels compelled to show them right from wrong.
However, what Rodriguez did for Crossover Freeport’s vandalized bus made its preacher’s voice quiver.
“Wow,” he said. “That’s big.”
Johnathan Sublet just wanted to be rich. He grew up in the South Oak Cliff area of Dallas where he viewed “rich” as having a home and family dinners each night.
It was something the former chemical engineer had in Houston. Then, Sublet saw Freeport kids in need.
“I said, 'We need to have a plan to continue to walk beside these kids for the long term,'” he said. “We need to be here.”
Sublet joined ministry. He opened a church without a building and one asset: a bus bought for one dollar. The church uses it to carry children to fun activities and to keep teens away from trouble.
Between trips, Sublet’s church showers adopted schools, like Fleming. They shower people there with gifts.
“(It’s) not just teachers (who receive gifts),” Sublet said. “But also janitors and lunch room workers. (We) show them appreciation in different ways.”
In return, someone broke 18 windows on their bus. Vandals even sprayed seats. Sublet now wants the teens who did it caught and embraced.
“I just see it as a kid who made a bad decision, that maybe if they would have had someone else to love on them and give them a little bit more coaching, in that moment, would have made a different decision,” Sublet said.
Repair costs seem overwhelming. But Rodriguez, who gets paid just once a month and can barely pay her bills “found” $20 to give.
“I (told Sublet), 'Well, this is my donation,'" Rodriguez said. “It’s not much.”
It was only her son’s wedding anniversary gift that he will now do without.
“Well, my son is a Christian, too, and he will understand,” she added. “When you are an example, and you’re doing nice things, (kids) follow. I always want them to follow what I’m doing.”
Her generosity stunned Sublet. He and his wife biologically cannot have a child, so they are adopting and looking forward to making the kind of memories Rodriguez sacrificed.
“For her to give up one of those experiences to help us out really means a lot,” Sublet said.
Rodriguez only wishes should could help more.
Freeport police have not yet found the vandals.