She drives a van full of kids that aren’t hers all over Detroit

Three years ago, the Downtown Boxing Gym — an academic and mentoring program in Detroit — needed a driver to fill in for a couple of weeks.

Diane McKinney-El Bey agreed to help — and never left.

McKinney-El Bey, a Detroiter who previously worked as a Montessori teacher, came out of retirement to drive the kids — a role that has her shuttling youngsters afternoons Monday through Friday.

“This is such a rewarding job,” she said. “Some of the children here really need that extra love, that extra talking to … and they know that I love them.”

DBG students and staff alike say McKinney-El Bey goes the extra mile for the kids.

Besides making sure the kids get to and from the Downtown Boxing Gym on East Vernor Highway, McKinney-El Bey, 69, listens to them, looks out for their needs and considers them like family. She has even delivered food to children’s homes and made sure they have other necessities like coats.

“I treat them just like I would my own grandchildren,” she said.