NC member selected as SMART TD SMART Army Member of the Year for 2021

February 16, 2022

Charlotte Area Transit Systems (CATS) bus operator and retired Local 1715 GCA TMD Vice Chairperson Debra Franklin has been honored with the SMART TD Joseph J. Nigro SMART Army Service Award for her work collecting and handing out toiletries to the homeless population in Charlotte, N.C. since November 2016.

According to a previous profile on her work, “I just noticed that when I went into the public bathrooms that women were washing up in the bathroom,” Franklin said. “I noticed that they were using the bathroom pump soap. So I started collecting toiletries and handing them out or leaving them bags of toiletries by their things in the bathrooms. I would also get other bus drivers to tell me where these women were or I’d walk the streets looking for them.”

As a bus operator, Franklin saw the living conditions of many of the homeless in her city, so she decided she needed to be part of the solution for them.

Franklin has even bigger goals in mind. She is looking to renovating retired buses into mobile shower and laundry facilities. She points to instances where one person converted an old bus in San Francisco into a shower bus and a St. Louis resident who turned a bus into laundry facilities for the homeless in that city.
Franklin is working to combine the two ideas and create a shower bus with laundry facilities — pointing out that it’s not enough for people to be clean, they need their clothes to be clean if they are going get on their feet and become independent.
Her online fundraising effort estimates a $200,000 cost to acquire and convert the two buses. SMART TD North Carolina State Legislative Director Ron Ingerick has also been helping Franklin. He’s made SMART TD Carolina locals across the United States aware of her cause and has solicited toiletries.
“Debra is a vital member of our union,” said Ingerick. “She is a doer, who no matter the task, will move heaven and earth to get the job done.”