February 2009 Issue
The bus drivers of the Cleveland Municipal School District are good people. Just ask Gwen Winston or the 20 members of her Chosen Community Choir, comprised mostly of bus drivers, bus guards, several students and a minister.
“We love to sing. We’re here to inspire and encourage,” says Winston of her gospel choir. “You just never know what a person is going through. Sometimes they are down. We are here to send a positive message.”
Winston, who celebrated her 30th anniversary as a school bus driver in January, has directed the Chosen Community Choir since 1993. The group was created after a spate of negative publicity focused on a couple of what she describes as “bad-apple” drivers. Winston came up with the choir idea after witnessing the drivers’ vocal talents at a series of school talent shows.
Many of their engagements help fellow bus drivers who have fallen sick or the families of those who have died. “We’ve done many benefits for those in need, always raising more than $1,000 to help someone out.” Their most-recent fundraiser was for one of their own — bus driver and choir organist Timothy Womack, 44, who died of kidney failure just before Thanksgiving. The benefit helped pay for Womack’s funeral.
The group practices twice a month at Shiloh Temple of Faith on East 63rd Street and Woodland Avenue. They have traveled from suburban Bay Village to Pittsburgh to perform, as news of the choir has spread by word of mouth throughout the church community.
“We believe in a lot of prayer,” says Winston. “More prayer, more power. We just feel that prayers open up the door.”
The Chosen Community Choir’s next concert is at Lee Memorial AME Church, 10512 Bryant Ave. in Cleveland, at 5 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 14.