The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 10, 2013

Person of the Week: Crossing guard: Kernville resident believes in helping neighbors

Frank Sojak

JOHNSTOWN — Robert Vanamburgh knows what it is like to be hit by a car, so that’s why he makes sure schoolchildren in his neighborhood cross the street safely.

Every school day, Vanamburgh helps nearly a dozen children cross busy Menoher Boulevard at Everhart Street in Kernville to catch the bus for East Side Elementary School.

“I try to catch it when the coast is clear and walk across with the children,” Vanamburgh said. “If I have to, I will stop traffic.”

He said that at 6 feet 6 inches tall and 220 pounds, if he stands in the middle of the street, motorists want to stop.

Traffic can be dangerous in that area, he said.

Cars don’t slow down on Menoher and cars travel up and down Everhart, even though it is a one-way street, he said.

“If you have children, you know how they like running around while they are waiting for the bus,” he said about why he watches them.

“I try to keep them away from the edge of the sidewalk.”

Vanamburgh said he was 13 years of age in 1980 when he was struck by a drunken driver while on his way to the store in Newburgh, N.Y., a New York City suburb.

“I don’t wish that to happen to any children,” said Vanamburgh, who eventually returned to his native Johnstown to live with his wife, Debra, and daughter, Kaitlyn, 6.

He said his daughter is one of the children he watches at the bus stop.

If for some reason his daughter does not go to school that day, he still helps the other children.

Other parents come out to help in ways such as making sure the coats of the children stay

buttoned, he said.

After school, Vanamburgh greets the school bus and makes sure the children go straight home. Because traffic is not as busy at that time of day, the bus driver is able to block both lanes of Menoher, thus eliminating the need for Vanamburgh to cross the children.

In the morning, traffic is too busy for both lanes to be blocked, he said.

“The children and parents like what I am doing,” he said. “Parents don’t have to worry about coming out and standing in the freezing cold because they know someone else is already there.”

The children are always well-behaved at the bus stop, he said.

Vanamburgh also shovels snow and cuts grass for his neighbors.

“The neighbors will do things for me, also,” he said. “We’re all friends, and that’s what friends are supposed to do.”

For his efforts, Vanamburgh is the Person of the Week.

The Rev. Richard S. Williams, who lives nears Menoher and Everhart and whose grandchildren catch the bus there, said Vanamburgh has been an excellent neighbor since moving to Kernville about six years ago.

Vanamburgh also helps senior citizens in the neighborhood by carrying groceries, maintaining their vehicles, shoveling their snow and mowing their lawns, said the pastor of Heavenly Sent Ministries in East Conemaugh.

“I’ve seen him take in homeless people for a few days until the people could get back on their feet,” he said.

“The children love him. He gets them on and off the bus every day.

“With him, we’re not worried about our children.”

Vanamburgh also is active with the Crime Watch program, alerting neighbors and police to problems, Williams said.