‘STUFF THE BUS’ WITH GENEROSITY
SPRINGFIELD – Last Friday, a Lane Transit District bus parked between the two entrances of the Springfield Walmart. This was not a case of a bad parking job, but rather an act of good for the hungry in our community.
This year marked the 27th annual Stuff the Bus event, a food drive for Food for Lane County in which LTD, Toys for Tots, US 101 and 104.7 KDUK are partners.
The goal: to fill the entire bus with non-perishable items. This lofty task seems to come naturally to the generous people in our community.
Despite the cold, partner volunteers accepted donations all day, excited for what this means for the community.
“There’s been hunger in this community for a long, long time and Food for Lane County has been really trying to help. This is an opportunity for us to step in and do what we can,” said Mark Johnson, LTD interim general manager.
With the holidays approaching, heating bills rising and inflation at an all-time high, this holiday season will come with extra expenses, perhaps more than ever before.
Kick-starting the giving this year, LTD held a competition to see which department could donate the most food. Donating 1,000 cans of food in total, LTD set the tone.
Each year, Stuff the Bus is responsible for raising between 6,000-10,000 pounds of food. Last year, donations amounted to the latter end of that range, said Dawn Marie Woodward, events and media relations coordinator for Food for Lane County.
For Woodward, who has been with Food for Lane County for 14 years, Stuff the Bus holds a special place in her heart.
“This kind of an event lets us see who’s giving. So many of our drives are anonymous, and you don’t get to meet the people. So it’s just really fun to be out here and watch people come and be excited about helping their neighbors. … We’re lucky this community is very supportive,” she said.
Woodward told a narrative of a mother who donated two bags of groceries earlier that day, saying that it was important for her to give back because she, too, had been helped by Food for Lane County in the past.
“We’re a food bank. Sometimes it’s your turn to make the deposits and sometimes you need to make the withdrawals, but as a strong community we can do both and get everybody the food that they need.” she said.
Robb Holloway, radio host for US 101.5, expressed a similar sentiment.
“We’ve seen so many people come through that have been the recipients of food boxes, and now they’re giving back and that’s a beautiful thing. This is a way to help out the community,” he said.
Speaking from experience, Holloway has been a part of Stuff the Bus for 15 years, and has started to recognize donors who come each holiday season.
“You get to know the people. You talk to and hear their stories and you see the kids that are getting their life lesson by donating. It’s pretty special,” he said.
All food donated will go to the Food for Lane County Warehouse and distributed throughout the county to help supply families with food in the upcoming months.
Donors were also encouraged to donate toys to Lane County Toys for Tots USMC, a Marine-based program that provides Christmas presents for families in need within Lane County.
With a total of 125 locations to donate, in 2021, 24,012 toys were distributed and 14,557 children were supported through Lane County Toys for Tots.
Stuff the Bus remains one of their largest fundraisers of the year, said Marine Sgt. Alex Huff, coordinator for Lane County Toys for Tots.
“We’re just helping out the kids. That’s what it’s all about: giving kids a happy Christmas, making them feel involved and not miss out on opportunities. Being able to fulfill that has been awesome,” Huff said.
The mission of Stuff the Bus has personal meaning to Holloway.
“Growing up, we had some tough times. We weren’t affluent. We were having tough times like everybody else,” he said. “I think I appreciate seeing people that aren’t millionaires come with big bags of food to donate. It’s like a group hug of people coming together to help out.”