What started with befriending a local homeless man, this local puts love and compassion in the front seat for those in need.
// BY EDIE WEINSTEIN
As we meet, a hug is offered and a sweet smile spreads across the face of Central Bucks West grad (Class of 1994), Melinda Bowyer, who has lately been the subject of extensive media coverage for doing what comes naturally to her…simply caring about people. Tucked into a corner table at The Zen Den, a local gathering place and what I call my ‘office away from home, we begin our conversation. This Doylestown native was dubbed The Uber Queen by family, friends and now former strangers who she now considers part of her circles, her riders. With her signature look of a garland of flowers in her hair, she appears to be every bit the angel with invisible wings that she is.
In the past 10 months, she has logged in over 1000 rides in her Desert Sand colored Nissan Pathfinder that contains three rows of seats to accommodate passengers and their luggage. Bowyer makes sure that it is welcoming and immaculately clean. She says that those she picks up, “know I am going to be reliable. I am always on time. I have given countless rides to all the regional airports.”
Prior to becoming an Uber driver, Bowyer was a waitress for over 18 years and had many regulars and enjoyed getting to know them by hearing their stories. She found that “Laughter is contagious.” Clearly, she believes this as our time together was punctuated with it.
It is not only her business ethics that have her in the spotlight, but her generosity with those who are marginalized and often invisible in many communities, people who are homeless.
Her social conscience and consciousness come to her naturally as she explains, “My father would give money to homeless people. He still does. My mom was a caretaker and a compassionate person. I witnessed a lot of love.”
“We didn’t go to church, but my father would give us $5 a piece to memorize scriptures.” She and her brother were taught that you didn’t have to go to church to have a relationship with God.
She views herself as “Such a free spirit who says what’s on my mind.”
Bowyer classifies herself as a misfit and someone who is unique. “People don’t make eye contact much. I smile and like to talk to people. Homeless people are easy to spot. I want people to be aware of their surroundings. If you see someone standing in the freezing cold, offer them a cup of coffee. If everyone comes together and does the little things…start a conversation and open the door. Help people make connections.”
“When I saw things with my own eyes,” she began questioning the injustices, and knew she had to do something positive. “I saw people kicked out of supermarkets when they were there to keep warm. They weren’t bothering anyone.”
She would give her tips to those who would ask for money at stop signs and ran out of money very quickly. Finding that merely a temporary solution, since “They were still in the cold and rain, I knew there was a better way to utilize what I do.”
She offered to drive people to shelters and appointments. Some allowed her to do so, others declined. She also has been known to buy items for people. A man named Tom was so upset that he didn’t have much battery life in his phone and had lost his charger that she stopped at a local store and bought one for him. “He was so happy and thankful.”
“We’re friends for life.”
The pivotal moment when she realized that simple acts of kindness could make a huge difference came when she met Eugene who she encountered at 3 in the morning at a Walmart. He wore a beard to his waist that obscured his face.
“He had been homeless a long time. I got him a cup of coffee from Wawa. He didn’t speak to me for months. I would tell him stories about my life. One day I changed the coffee creamer from hazelnut to vanilla and he noticed and said it tasted good. Those were the first words he spoke to me.”
She took him for his first haircut, and to the hospital for swollen legs. He is in a nursing home now, where they are taking care of him
“We’re friends for life.”
Bowyer visits him at the nursing home where they call her The Uber Queen too.
She describes other situations she has observed. She saw a woman sleeping in her car, “She was a retired postal worker who didn’t want help.” In casual conversation with them and providing rides, many tell her that they don’t feel like human beings.
“People look right through them and walk by them. I try to find their backstory. There are issues of drugs at times. I don’t judge.”
When asked about personal safety as she travels the highways and byways of the region, she responded, “I always feel safe. You can’t live your life in fear. It’s what I love. It gives me freedom. I turn my app off if I don’t want to work. I meet people, I hear their stories. The next exciting adventure. It fits my personality. I have seen the most amazing places. Even in Doylestown, I have seen places I didn’t know were there.”
It takes a village…
She asks that others get involved, since many hands and hearts are needed to share the love.
“Heather Walton at Class Harlan Real Estate in Doylestown has collected gloves and socks. We need more.”
“I have been contacted by many for interviews and they have been so inspired by my story that charities have reached out to me and want to work together. If anyone would like to help my cause… Gas cards have been suggested as a way to help me continue to do what I do. And to purchase small denomination gift cards to Wawa or McDonalds, etc. so the homeless may get coffee or a hot meal.
Donations for McDonalds and Gas gift cards to keep this mission humming along can be made here: paypal.me/Melindatheuberqueen
Humbly, she adds, “I didn’t ask for all this attention. I posted on my Facebook page and the Doylestown Facebook group. I asked if people knew of homeless people who needed rides to shelters, when it was Code Blue. I was contacted by NBC 10,” who did a segment on her labor of love.
Since she takes such good care of others, I inquired how she nurtures herself
“I get my nails done. (They were a pretty raspberry sherbet today.) I like to try new restaurants and love Buffalo Hot Wings. I stayed up all night to get free wings for a year. I love to laugh and am up for anything. People love being around me. The life of the party, people like to live vicariously through me. I used to have anxiety over how people perceived me. When I turned 40 I realized I needed to live by my own rules. I wish people would put their energies to better use and be uplifting to each other and offer more support. So many are followers and I prefer to stand out and lead. You don’t get anywhere standing in the background.”