Sheri Hicks

Hicks

Have you heard about Bar Buddies Lodi (BBL)?

If not, please let me give you some background.

BBL is a nonprofit safe ride program that originated in the Sauk Prairie community and has expanded to the Baraboo, Reedsburg and River Valley communities and is now available in the Lodi community as of two years ago. The goal is simply to get you safely from place to place. It was spearheaded by a very energetic volunteer Missy Larrabee. First Missy asked five locals to be on the board of BBL, Katie Larrabee-Lane, Sheri Hicks, Bryan Smith, and Bert West. After many monthly meetings, countless fundraisers and a generous cash advance from one of our board members, we purchased our first van and were well on our way.

We slowly acquired more drivers, scheduled more fundraisers and purchased our second van with another generous cash advance by another board member. We finally raised enough money to purchase our third van for larger groups. We were in business! We recently had to replace the first van purchased due to too many maintenance issues and were so very thankful for receiving a most generous anonymous donation at just the right time.

How do we make money? We have applied for grants, we receive a small stipend from Columbia County Tavern League and we charge various fees depending on the number of passengers and where they need to go. You do need to pay a small fee each time going house to bar, bar to bar, but the important thing to note is rides home are always free. Our main source of income are our various fundraisers and monetary donations from the local bars and community members alike. We do have a bank account at Associated Bank where anyone can make donations at any time. All donations made to BBL are tax deductible.

I believe BBL has most certainly helped local businesses. Local business was quite dismal a few years ago but with the help of BBL providing safe rides, more people are out supporting the local restaurants, bars and fundraisers – safely. Please note — BBL is not only for providing transportation to bars — we provide safe rides for all kinds of special family events too.

How far will we travel? That depends. On busy nights, we will usually just travel Lodi, Dane, Harmony Grove and Okee areas. But we have been known to give rides to folks in Deforest and Waunakee. We do work with Sauk area Bar Buddies and meet by Crystal Lake Campground to switch rides.

With success, of course comes growing pains. Two years running, we are wearing out our drivers and need more volunteers. Our drivers do not get paid – they work for tips which many give back to Bar Buddies. Won’t you consider volunteering your time?

There are many misconceptions with being a driver:

“I don’t want to haul drunks around and clean up any messes.” Reality: You are doing a good deed – you are getting your community members safe rides home and there have only been a few folks who have “made a mess” but we have plenty of buckets on hand throughout the vehicles.

“My bed time is 9:00 p.m.!” – So is mine— as long as the calls come in, you don’t even realize how late it is. As a driver, you have the ability to take the van home and wait for calls, or sit at KD’s or whichever bar you prefer, talk to friends, watch the ball games and wait for the phone to ring.

“I don’t know my way around Lodi” – BBL is a fantastic way to learn how to get around the Lodi area. And, all you have to do is get directions from the phone! We have never given someone a ride home who didn’t know their way home.

“I wouldn’t feel safe driving people I don’t know around” – bring a friend! You can always bring a buddy along and we have security cameras in each vehicle.

“I want to have fun with my friends on the weekends” – You can— I still do! Sure you can’t drink as a driver but you are going to feel much better in the morning. And we do private parties during the week so maybe you sign up with only those in mind?

“BBL is promoting drinking” – No, it’s not. People are going to drink when they want and get behind a wheel. BBL has put a major dent in the arrests for DWI’S in the area but we also give rides for people who don’t have their own transportation to work and often times to places like Kwik Trip to pick up items they need..

“I don’t want to be liable if anything happens” – BBL has liability insurance that will cover our drivers.

I personally love seeing my kid’s friends – I have never had more selfies sent to my kids by our participants! And I don’t think there is another program that could make any of our driver’s feel better about ourselves or our community.

What are the requirements of a BBL driver? You need to have a good driving record and be over 26 years of age. If you don’t qualify, we can still use you as a dispatcher or at our various fundraisers!

How do you sign up? Please call the BBL Driver Manager Gary Tupper at 608-220-7609. He will provide you with an application and once you are approved by our insurance agency, training will be provided and you are off. Or ask for one from one of our drivers if you see them out and about.

Remember, if you have had a few drinks – why take the chance? Simply call BBL at 608-575-7745. Our hours of operation are Thursday night from 6 p.m. to 12:30 am and Friday and Saturday night from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Don’t forget we can also do private events such as wedding parties, Brewer trips, golf outings etc.

Along with volunteer drivers, we also need the support of the Lodi community more than ever with monetary donations or donations for our fundraising events. A small group have worked tirelessly to bring this program to our community. It has saved countless lives. But, we need your help. Please consider donating money or your time. Remember, donations can be made directly to Associated Bank or simply leave a donation at any bar earmarked for Bar Buddies Lodi.

Many members of the Poynette community have also reached out to us asking if we could expand our coverage there. While we have been able to take a number of Poynette folks home in the past, it’s spotty. It all depends on how busy we are as our first priority has to be the immediate Lodi area. We just don’t have the manpower or resources to commit a driver and vehicle at this point. Wouldn’t it be nice if some day we did?

Our next big fund raiser will be our Bar Buddies Bonanza to celebrate our two year anniversary on November 3 starting at 2:00 pm at Waddle Inn. There will be plenty of basket raffle prizes donated by local families and businesses and a 50/50 drawing. If you’d like to make a basket donation in memory of someone or with your family/business name, or anonymously, please drop it off at Waddle Inn. Be sure to include your name, address and value for a tax receipt if you’d like one. Or if you’d like us to pick it up, please contact Gary or any of our drivers. Following our fundraiser, there will be live music by 3 Souls. Please come and support this very worthwhile program!

You can learn more on our Facebook page at Bar Buddies Lodi!

For those of you who use Bar Buddies Lodi, thank you for making one of the best decisions of your life!

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