Jacky Poulsen likes to do something extra during the holiday season to help struggling and homeless neighbors.

"Usually it’s something like collecting new socks or warm clothes for winter. Last year I wanted to do something different," said Poulsen, a volunteer with Partners for Change, a community-based program that helps those in the Tri-Valley achieve financial self-sufficiency. "I’ve come to appreciate the challenges of having neither a car nor the financial means to pay for public transportation, so I decided to do a small-scale bus ticket drive. My friends were so generous that we were able to donate about 500 bus tickets ($800). My friends were not only generous, but also grateful for the opportunity to do something that so directly helps people in need, and with zero overhead!"

Now in its second year, Poulsen is opening the bus ticket drive to the community.

"My hope is that the broader community will feel the same way," said Poulsen. "Since many homeless people do not have a car, transportation is a huge challenge for them. For example, getting a ‘free’ meal at Open Heart Kitchen actually costs $4 in round-trip transportation. That’s $4 they often don’t have. The same applies to getting to medical appointments."

The bus tickets are given out at the Open Heart Kitchen. Founded in 1995, Open Heart Kitchen serves nutritious hot meals free of charge to the Tri-Valley's disadvantaged every weekday, rotating between locations in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin. The bus tickets will be given out during meals at the Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore.

"Eight years ago I met a gentleman in Livermore who was homeless, but managing to maintain a job," said Teri Lambert, manager of Asbury's Shower and Laundry Program. "The effort on his part to be ready for work and get there each day touched me. I realized how easy it was for me to get a good night’s sleep, make coffee, shower, and put on clothes that had been washed in my machine - and still I complained about getting to work. I made a personal decision to get to know those in my community who were facing challenges and figure out ways to help. Transportation is a basic need in our society - getting to work, the store and the services in town."

Wheels bus tickets typically cost $2 each, or a sheet of ten for $16. However, Christy Wegener, Director of Planning and Operations for the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority, said, "Wheels is excited to partner with Jacky and provide a 50% match to the number of tickets she purchases with this year’s funds."

Donations can be made in any denomination, in one of two ways: sending a check marked "Bus Tickets" in the memo line; or purchasing tickets to drop off at Asbury. Bus tickets can be purchased at Safeway, Lucky, city hall, senior centers, or at the Wheels Administrative Offices at 1362 Rutan Drive in Livermore.

"We are trying to do as much as possible before Christmas, but donations will be happily accepted any time," said Poulsen. "To receive a receipt for the donation, include an email address, but please be patient as it may take a while to process the donations and send out receipts.

"My experience from last year and already again this year, is that people love donating bus tickets," she added. "They often want to help but don’t know how. This is so easy and is such a great way to give."

To learn more, visit www.asburylive.org. Asbury United Methodist Church is located at 4743 East Avenue.