Barbara Townsend goes to work every day ready to serve.

She’s a driver for Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation.

Her daily commitment was recently honored in a significant way.

National Express Transit, which operates the PART system, announced that Townsend was one of four drivers awarded the North Carolina Public Transit Association’s 2023 Driver of the Year Award.

“I know I do a lot of things, but I wasn’t expecting to receive that,” Townsend said. “I felt appreciated.”

Being a dependable employee got the attention of her colleagues, especially after learning about the difference she’s making outside of work.

David Bonner, a general manager for National Express Transit, nominated Townsend.

“I heard about her son, and I was just overcome by the amount of energy she can put forth after such a tragic accident,” he said.

Townsend’s son Malik Ramirez drowned at Buffalo Lake in Greensboro on May 17, 2019.

The Page High School student was 15 years old.

Since then, PHS has formed a partnership with the Greensboro Aquatic Center for The Malik Ramirez/PHS Learn to Swim Program.

Barbara remains committed to supporting the program that allows PHS students to learn life-saving water skills.

Sadly, Townsend lost another child to tragedy.

Her son Stephen Townsend died in a car accident on Oct. 1, 2010.

He was 25 years old.

“At one time, I shut down. Just wanted to be myself…then as time got the going by, I was like ‘you gotta get up and do something,’ so that’s what I’ve been doing,” Townsend said.

After Ramirez died, Townsend started Next Step Loved Ones.

It’s a support group with grief sessions for mothers who have lost children.

It has grown from four to 15 women.

Townsend has also found ways to support people experiencing homelessness by providing hot meals and clothes.

For Bonner, seeing how Townsend helps others navigate their road ahead is more reason she deserves recognition.

“It’s a lot about you being a good and consistent safe driver, but it’s also about your community efforts and you as a person,” he said.