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July 26, 1991 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

DETROIT

The UHS Bus Company
Is Cruising At Top Speed

AMY J. MEHLER

Staff Writer

oung and old know
Julius Goldman.
He's the guy who
parks his bus in front of
homes each morning, inter-
rupting sleep and breakfast
with a single blast of his
horn.
And sometimes, at the end
of a long, hot day, he's the
one calling parents, letting
them know he'll be a little
late because their children

y

Victor Kalenyak

fell asleep and missed their
stop.
Other mornings,
Mr.Goldman, who is 69
years old, gets off his bus to
help senior citizens climb
aboard.
Mr. Goldman, who's
driven a bus for seven years,
is one of 50 drivers and six
full-time mechanics
employed by the United
Hebrew School Transporta-
tion Department, an in-
dependent agency of the
Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit.

Gennady Olgart

New Americans Climb
Behind The Wheel

M

uch of the Jewish!
community will
have a chance to
meet Victor Kalenyak and
Gennady Olgart. They're
the newest bus drivers at
the United Hebrew School
Transportation Depart-
ment.
Mr. Kalenyak, 29, who's
from the Ukraine, wasn't
too worried about settling
into his new job.
"I had a little problem
in the beginning with
directions," he said, "but
the kids on the bus helped
me. They told me when I
was going the wrong
way."
Mr. Olgart, who came
from MoscoW, said his
greatest challenge was
getting used to the way
English sounds coming
over the radio.
"It's pretty hard to
understand it normally,
so over the radio is a lot
harder."
However, the two are
coping fine, especially
since they're working
with three other new
Americans.

Matthew Kamins, di-
rector of Transportation
Services, who came
aboard about a year ago,
said he made an effort to
hire Soviet immigrants.
"It seemed only
natural," Mr. Kamins
said. "The Jewish com-
munity tries to do all it
can for them, so there was
no reason they shouldn't
work here, too."
Mr. Kamins said he con-
tacted the Jewish Voca-
tional Service to let them
know he had some open-
ings.
Mr. Kalenyak and Mr.
Olgart, who came to
Detroit almost two years
ago, started work the
same week.
Both said they had some
driving experience in the
Soviet Union, but nothing
compared to the kinds of
roads they drive now.
"I come from a small
town near Chernobyl
called Chernovce," said
Mr. Kalenyak, who was a
house painter. "Not many
people drove cars. Most
walked wherever they
needed to go."

Amy J. Mehler

14

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 1991

"We're the largest or se-
cond largest not-for-profit
bus company in
Southeastern Michigan,"
according to Director of
Transportation Services
Matthew Kamins. "We
transport more than 400,000
people each year and save
Jewish and non-Jewish
schools and organizations
millions of dollars."
Mr. Kamins, who is 30
years old, has been with
UHS for about a year. In
that time, he said, the agen-
cy has made dramatic im-
provements.
"Our entire operation is
fully computerized," Mr.
Kamins said. "All of our
vehicles are equipped with
radios that have their own
frequencies and for the first
time in our 45-year history,
our coach buses are air con-
ditioned. We can transport
anyone comfortably across
the Midwest."
Mr. Kamins, an Orthodox
Jew from Detroit, said the
UHS Transportation Service
has become more of a
"response service organiza-
tion," with its creation of a
new customer service
department. "We turn down
more business contracts
than most people can shake
a stick at," Mr. Kamins said.
"Today, we own and service
100 vehicles, and will travel
most anywhere, from Oak
Park to Grosse Isle, from
Novi to Pontiac."
Any not-for-profit agency
or organization may contact
UHS, Mr. Kamins said.
"Approximately, 150-200
agencies contract with us,"
he said. "We probably save
organizations two to three
times as much as what
they'd pay out to similar, for-
profit bus companies.
"Agencies pay anywhere
between $40,000 and
$450,000, depending on
where they're going and how
long they're traveling for,"
Mr. Kamins said. "The
agency itself operates on a
budget of about $1.2 mill-
ion."
"Things are even better
since Matt came aboard,"
bus driver Julius Goldman
said. "Every month now, we
have meetings and he sees to
it that we're all served a
lunch that's even kosher. In
the old days, if we'd have a
meeting, none of us was on
the clock. But now, we get
paid for our time."
Mr. Kamins said the
department believes in in-
vesting in its employees. All

-4

O h*

-4

Julius Goldman before his morning run.

drivers must have nearly
spotless driving records, and
all must be specially trained
and licensed. In addition,
every driver must pass a
Michigan Department of
Transportation physical and
drug test.
"Fifteen of our drivers are
women," Mr. Kamins said.
"We don't discriminate on
the basis of race, color, re-
ligion or sex."
Larry Ziffer, director of
planning and agency rela-

buses would pick up all the
Jewish kids from public
school and bring them to
classes.
"For many years it con-
tinued to only service the
schools, expanding as the
Jewish community grew.
But about 10 or 12 years ago,
the Federation did a study
and found that the agency
was losing close to $100,000
a year. That was when it was
decided that the Federation
would take it over."

"We turn down
more contracts
than most
businesses can
shake a stick at."

Mr. Ziffer said the bus.
company is running better
than ever, with a great
degree of professionalism.
William Gerstl, who is 87
years old, depends on the bus
system to bring him back
and forth to the Jewish
Community Center in Oak
Park.
"I don't drive anymore,
and my wife doesn't feel so
good," Mr. Gerstl said.
Sue Covensky, who also
lives in Oak Park, said she
used to walk to the JCC but
once fell and broke her hand.
"It's a lot easier to ride,"
Mrs. Covensky said while
touching up her morning
makeup. "I'm very satisfied
with the transportation."

Matthew Kamins

tions for the Jewish Federa-
tion, calls the UHS bus com-
pany one of Detroit's best-
kept secrets.
"I'd say the agency is a
low-profile, high-value
organization," Mr. Ziffer
said.
Mr. Ziffer said to fully
understand the impact the
transportation service has
had on the community, you
have to understand how it
started.
"Around 45 or so years
ago, the Detroit Jewish
community lived together in
the same neighborhood,"
Mr. Ziffer said. "Everyone
went to United Hebrew
Schools for their after-school
Hebrew education. So UHS

Mr. Goldman said he'd
miss seeing all the friendly
faces if he was not driving.
"I know everybody and
everybody knows me," he
said. "Plus, I really enjoy
taking the children to school
and camp all year round."



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