Driving for Uber Helps Pastor Raise Money for African Country

Rev. Jeffery Melvin has been driving for Uber and Lyft. He says the income from his work with ride sharing has enabled him to help various charities

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Rev. Jeffery Melvin.
Rev. Jeffery Melvin.

Making some extra money up to a full living may be as easy as driving your car around town. As of late last June, ride hail companies have been operating in Rochester and elsewhere in Upstate New York.

Would-be drivers download the app onto their smart phones and complete the application process, which includes background, driving and criminal record checks. Once they’re approved to drive, they can turn on the app whenever they’re available to drive for anyone who hails them through the app. The app records the mileage and accepts the fares directly from riders. Drivers may accept cash tips.

Driving through ride hail apps has enabled the Rev. Jeffery Melvin, senior pastor at Power House Kingdom Cathedral Church of God in Christ in Rochester, to raise enough money to fund construction of a well in Rwanda. Melvin said that the well is especially important since the African country is experiencing a severe drought, even during what should be its rainy season. The large well provides water to 4,000 people daily.

Finding time for additional, part-time employment to fund missions would otherwise be difficult for Melvin, who has been a ride hail driver since June. He’s also a senior pastor of Encouragement Centre Church of God in Christ in Buffalo.

He also travels a great deal on behalf of his congregations. Those experiences introduced Melvin to ride hail services elsewhere.

“It’s very safe,” he said. “I think it’s safer than other modes of transportation because of all the background checks.”

When talking with drivers, he realized that ride hail driving could provide a means for him to raise funds without neglecting his congregations so he signed up. Melvin said that he drives around 20 hours a week, although not on Sundays and not late on Saturday nights.

“I’ve heard of people going full-time and making $1,000 a week,” Melvin said.

He said that drivers who are a “people person” do better than the quiet types.

“I am a pastor so I talk for a living,” Melvin said. “The majority of the people ask why you drive and they appreciate getting a safe ride home.”

Beyond the stringent checks on drivers, their cars must also meet company standards, such as up-to-date inspection and insurance. Drivers of old cars need not apply; acceptable cars must be within a certain number of years old. Cars must have four doors that open from the inside and outside, have a minimum number of seats and meet safety standards. No beaters are allowed; cars must be in good condition, clean, free of dents and rust and fully functional.

Melvin said that when riders check his profile, they can see his 4.96 out of 5 rating and know that they have a good driver available. Melvin’s friendly, chatty ways have netted him more than 250 5-star ratings, which he said “is the biggest compliment.”

In addition to maintaining a pleasant conversation, “driving strategically helps. In Rochester, everyone wants to go downtown.”

The app uses GPS to aid drivers in finding riders for pick-up and to arrive at their destination efficiently. The app also tracks drivers’ rate of speed, braking, and acceleration to ensure safety. Lyft and Uber both provide insurance for drivers that takes effect whenever the app is on.

It’s also important for drivers to feel completely comfortable using apps and GPS. Knowing the town well can also help as occasionally GPS isn’t 100 percent accurate.

“The later it gets in the week, the more — jolly, shall we say — the rider may be,” Melvin said. “Just the paternal, protective part of me says it may be better for a male driver as it gets late.”

He added that overall, he highly recommends ride sharing; however, would-be drivers should plan to turn on their apps only when they’re ready to drive.