Do Good Bus drives passengers toward altruistic adventurism

Do gooders en route to an unknown destination.
Do gooders en route to an unknown destination.
Bonnie Hawthorne/ Do Good Bus

Saturday afternoon, thirty-five people looking to volunteer their time will climb on board a bus and take their seats. They don’t know where the bus is going or what they’ll be doing when they get there, but they know it will be good.

And co-founder of the Do Good Bus, Rebecca Pontius, is not giving up the secret destination.

“People are going to get their hands dirty,” Pontius said. “I can tell you that.”

The Do Good Bus is a Los Angeles nonprofit that transports volunteers for a fee to participate in events or outreach to support local charities. Along the way, the riders are rewarded with food, wine and a chance to help organizations they might not know about ordinarily. But the causes remain a mystery until the bus doors open.

Pontius, along with two friends, started the Bus after volunteering at various causes over the years. A light bulb came on after the trio rode on a party bus together last year. They then decided to meld their volunteering with the fun of a rolling, communal party.

“We’ve always had friends ask how to get involved,” said Pontius. “It’s a great way to say, ‘You know what? All you have to do his hop on the bus.’”

The Do Good Bus began running last year when the group held their first “field trip” in August. Volunteers helped out at a carnival run by Camp Harmony, a charity that takes disadvantaged children on camping trips in Malibu.

Pontius said one of the main goals of putting people on the Bus is to raise awareness of how to donate time in their communities. The hope is that the single trip on the Bus will not be the only volunteering the riders participate in locally.

“It’s learning that it’s easy to help or that it’s really rewarding to help, and it’s something that maybe moved them to come back and support that cause again,” Pontius said.

One of the draws of the bus is the mystery surrounding its destination, which injects some excitement into the trip for riders. But, Pontius added keeping the secret also prevents people from getting nervous or having preconceptions about a particular cause.

As an example she pointed to a recent trip to support 826LA, a nonprofit that helps students with their writing skills. The volunteers aided high school students in writing college entrance essays.

“If we had told everyone beforehand that they were going to help write college essays, I don’t know if anyone would have gotten on the bus,” Pontius said.

And although she said the group has picked local, grassroots causes to support, one trip took the volunteers farther than they might have expected.

As usual, the volunteers were not told where the charter bus would stop, but they were told to bring along their passport. The group traveled south of the border to work at a Mexican orphanage that houses 100 children.

When asked about their trip this Saturday, Pontius would only share that it is titled “The Hunt,” a nod to Easter Sunday egg hunts, and that the three destinations are related to environmental causes. One thing is certain: The trip will apparently be a unique experience in the local world of volunteerism.

“As far as we know, no one is surprising people with volunteering activities,” said Pontius.