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Personal Space: Xavier Flores

A one on one conversation with Kid One driver Xavier Flores

When Xavier Flores retired from 28 years doing linework for the power company, he tried living the easy life for a while, traveling and doing pretty much whatever he wanted. But he missed having a sense of purpose—not just working, but helping people. “One day I was reading the paper,” Flores recalls, “and thought, I want to do something now that really means something.” He saw that Kid One Transport, a nonprofit created to transport children and expectant mothers who need health-care services, was looking for drivers who could speak Spanish. Flores’ Spanish was rusty, but the Kid One concept spoke to him, and he got the job. That was 12 years ago, and he still works three days a week transporting children and parents from as far as Auburn/Opelike and Dadeville for healthcare ranging from life-saving dialysis treatments to routine immunizations. He sat down with a writer over breakfast recently to talk about driving for Kid One and how it feels like the role he was meant to serve. 

B-Metro: What first appealed to you about this job?

Flores: It’s a great cause. Kid One does a service that a lot of people take for granted—including me. I always had a vehicle and was able to get around and provide for my daughters when they were growing up. But a lot of the people we serve, they have a vehicle but the husband has to use it for work, or some of the young mothers don’t have a vehicle, but they still have a need to get their child to the doctor. There’s a lot of need here in Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

It could also be my background. Growing up down in South Texas I saw a lot of hard times, people struggling in the Hispanic population and also the white population. It gave me insight into a person having to struggle as they raise their kids and needing that little bit of help. It’s just somebody coming in and saying, ‘Hey, I’m willing to do what I can to help you.’ This was my opportunity.

B-Metro: Are you using your Spanish much?

Flores: My broken Spanish? Maybe 10 to 15 percent of the time. With a lot of the Spanish-speaking customers, you can tell they’re really excited they have somebody they can communicate with. It really takes stress off a patient who may be from a different country and hasn’t been here long enough to feel comfortable.

But it’s funny, with a lot of them, when I get to know them, I’ll say, ‘You speak to me in English, and I’ll speak to you in Spanish.’ Then it’s practice for both of us.

B-Metro: Do you get to know the families you drive?

Flores:  It’s amazing. You don’t really plan on setting up a relationship with them, because you pick them up, and 30 minutes later you drop them off. But then again you get that one patient or family that you pick up and they’re in the vehicle for an hour and a half or two hours sometimes. A lot of the young parents are looking for someone just to kind of talk to—like ‘This is what’s happened, this is where I’m at, and hopefully this is where I’m going one day.’ You get to meet a lot of great people. And when you get that kid who runs up and hugs you and just is glad to see you—because you’ve been seeing them for the last four or five years doing transport—it’s a heck of a feeling. And the parents are really good about telling you how much they appreciate what you do for them.

When you get home and you sit down and say, ‘Today I did a good job because I was able to help somebody,’ that’s hard to beat.

B-Metro: Any other side benefits?

Flores: I’ve met a lot of good people who offer assistance to Kid One, not just financially but who are willing to go that extra mile and volunteer with a lot of the programs and fundraisers that we have. Volunteer is such a great word, because it means someone who’s willing to step out, take time away from their own life and do something he doesn’t have to do.

We’re also very fortunate to have a lot of companies that sponsor us. Mercedes-Benz is one of the biggest. I really don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have them, because they provide such an extra with the vehicles they give us. We would probably not be able to cover the area that we cover if it weren’t for the people at Mercedes and Hyundai and Honda who do what they do for us.

B-Metro: You mentioned before that in some ways it feels like you’ve come full circle in your career. How is that? 

Flores: When I was in college, I had a part time job working with a cerebral palsy center driving the bus. It turned out to be one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of great jobs. The day I left, I cried. That job was that good. Those kids made such an impression on me. It’s funny how life kind of leads you in a direction and you don’t really realize where you’re going, but you just keep following the light. That’s basically how I’ve been most of my life. Anywhere the good Lord needed me to go, I was able to get there and hopefully do what He needed me to do.

I think the best things that happen to you in your life are sometimes things you don’t plan. •

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