Lenoir City teacher vows to put vehicle jump starter kits in every Tennessee school
Allison Rupp knoxnews.com
Jordan McKenzie panicked when his Ford Taurus wouldn't start in the Lenoir City High School parking lot a few weeks before Christmas.
He had to be at his part-time job in an hour. His mother was in Mississippi, and it would take his older brother almost an hour to get there from Farragut.
"I guess I left my lights on," said Jordan, a senior. "I knew something was wrong when my clicky thing wouldn't work. I thought, 'Man, I'm probably going to be late for work.' "
His younger sister, Jennifer, was upset because it was cold.
Fortunately for the McKenzie siblings, David Moore, physical education teacher and former football coach, has kept jumper cables and a battery jump starter in his office since 2000.
He had the students on their way in about two minutes.
"If it wasn't for him, I would've gotten written up at work, and I didn't want to get fired," Jordan said. "He came in and saved the day."
That same week, Moore jumped started 12 cars in one day at the high school.
After the 12th, he realized that he shouldn't keep this beneficial service secret.
"Something went off in my head. Ding, ding, ding," Moore said. "We need to get power packs in every high school. I'm not going to stop until every high school in Tennessee has one."
Moore, who is endearingly called "Coach," never wants students like Jordan to panic again when their engine won't turn over. He wants them to know the school can help them with more than just algebra equations and literary essays.
Moore started a battery jump starter program as part of his nonprofit called CARE 365, which seeks to let students and the community know there are people who care.
The jump starter kits, which come with jumper cables, an air compressor and a light for early mornings or nights after football games, cost about $50. Since Moore began asking people to donate, CARE 365 has put a kit in every school in Loudon County as well as every high school in Knox County, Blount County and several other surrounding counties.
Many kits have been donated by school alumni in honor of their favorite teachers or coaches.
Moore wants to get a jump starter kit for every school in Tennessee, not just high schools. Teachers and parents at elementary and middle schools sometimes need help.
George Quarles, athletic director at Maryville High School, said they plan to use the CARE 365 jump starter they recently received for people leaving after basketball and football games.
"A lot of times after a game, somebody's car won't start," Quarles said. "Before they would have to call a wrecker, somebody to come out. It's something somebody wishes they would have thought of a long time ago."
Moore founded CARE 365 just two months after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. The nonprofit is about random acts of kindness — finding the good in people and not judging anyone, he said. His goal was to start an organization that showed kids that everyone from the bus driver to English teacher to football coach cares about them. Moore believed that kids not knowing they are valued was more of a problem than a lack of security, police officers and search dogs in schools, which many people were calling for after Columbine.
"The jumper cables are part of the process," Moore said. "We need to show the kids and students we care outside the school."
He estimates he's jumped about 2,000 dead car batteries since 2000 at Lenoir City High School. Besides getting students quickly on their way and saving them from having to call family or AAA, Moore said the simple act creates a connection.
And it's not just the connection between the black cable and the negative end on the battery and the red cable with the positive.
"When you make a connection with the car, the kid sitting in the car starts to smile," Moore said. "They know you care about more than educating them. When I hook up that positive, something positive happens."
It's a "care-nection," he said.
Knoxville Catholic High School principal Dickie Sompayrac isn't sure who donated the CARE 365 jump starter kit, but it's the school's second one.
The high school realized the need for a jump starter and got one the beginning of the school year before Moore started the program.
The school jumped at least five cars during first semester.
"With 200 to 300 student cars on campus, just from a statistical standpoint, dead batteries can happen throughout the school year," Sompayrac said. "I think it was a neat idea for Dave to do this."
The larger picture, Moore said, is the project connects Tennessee communities to schools. It also allows CARE 365 to learn schools' needs.
"This is what we're trying to do," Moore said, "bring schools and community together."
CARE 365 also helps struggling members of the community with food, clothes and appliances as well as names Careacter Star Athletes of the Week, buys needy families Christmas presents and takes deserving children on limousine rides.
To donate a jump starter kit to a Tennessee school, contact Moore and CARE 365 at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-966-2273.