Mary Jo Upchurch
Special to The Gardner News
Mary Jo Upchurch started her PinkRide Taxi service with a promise to give back part of all she earns for cancer research, and now she wants to help the community during this time of coronavirus concerns, too.
“I’m wanting Gardner residents to know, the ones that read your paper, that I want to offer my services for See PINK, page 6
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the elderly or the ones with underlying medical conditions who are just so afraid, free of charge,” Upchurch said. “I’ll go to the store or the pharmacy or whatever for them when they need the help right now.”
PinkRide Taxi can be reached at 913-549-6784 or [email protected] Upchurch started driving ten years ago, working for a friend who ran a taxi service, and her work makes her happy.
“I loved it,” Upchurch said. “I loved meeting the people, talking to the people, driving around all day.”
When Upchurch moved back to Kansas City, she signed up first with Checker Taxi and drove that pink taxi for cancer support.
“People loved that pink taxi,” she said. “You can see it for miles.”
Her mother-in-law had a cancer scare, and the doctors snipped the cocoon of cancer behind her lungs, saying all had been healed for her. A year later, she passed away of stage four lung cancer, and Upchurch’s father-in-law passed from pancreatic cancer only six months after his diagnosis. When Upchurch started her own company, she kept the business name of Pinkride Taxi to show her support for combating cancer.
“I’ve known quite a few who have passed away from or have fought cancer,” Upchurch said. “Almost all the customers I drive have someone close to them who’s fought that fight. I feel no matter how little or how much you can do trying to support the cure or getting the word out to support the cure, it is needed.”
Her son and daughter sometimes drive for her business, and she has a fleet of drivers she can use if demand gets strong.
“Over the years, things have changed with Uber, Lyft, et cetera, making things hard for an individual driver,” Upchurch said. “Now I lease a Z-Trip car so new customers can know I’m fully background checked, fingerprints and everything. The whole point of the Z-trip car is to lease a car but run your own business with it.”
Z-trip cars have the right-of-way into the Royals and Chiefs stadium, with special perks like being able to drop customers in front of the stadiums so they don’t have to walk. Right now, sporting events have stopped and all travel and hospitality services have taken a hit. Holidays, prom season, and early morning business people going to the airport have been the mainstay of her business. Upchurch has expanded her business to include errands, and is willing to donate her services when she can.
“I like the small-town feel of Gardner, even though it’s growing,” Upchurch said. “The people are so friendly. I love driving around and meeting new people, and I love making my own hours.”
Upchurch’s flexibility gives her more time for her six grandchildren, with movie dates and babysitting. Her parents raised eight children with the values of loyalty, family, and hard work. Another hero in life has been Clifford Sparks, of Gardner, who passed away recently.
“He had a good word and was friendly to everyone,” Upchurch said. “He was raised in an orphanage and built himself up with just hard work, and good old-fashioned pride and honesty. He was proud to be a farmer. I’m proud to say he did business with a handshake and good faith for 70 years.”
Upchurch’s motto is “Live, don’t just exist,” and she’s ready and willing to help others live better lives, too.