“Stuff the Bus” started before Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t about eating more than your fill. It was about helping those who don’t have enough to eat.
Bus drivers of the Carthage School-Related Professionals local union parked a yellow school bus outside the district bus garage for several weeks. They draped a banner over it that proclaimed “Stuff the Bus.”
Then, the union’s 69 drivers got to work, promoting the project with the kids who ride their buses to and from school every day. They sent fliers to the schools and put up posters around town. The goal was to have students and staff bring in food to be donated to the local food pantry.
Sandy Robinson, a union bus driver, said she heard an ad on a local radio station a few years ago with the voice of a child saying “All I want for Christmas is something in my tummy.” It hit her right in the stomach.
That year, she only asked the elementary students on her bus run to bring in a can or jar of food to share. Then, three years ago, the project expanded to include the whole school.
“I figured even if every one of them brought in one can, we’d have a lot of food,” Robinson said. She tells the students: “There are children right in this school who don’t have enough to eat.”
“Some of our local food pantries have been having a hard time keeping the pantry full,” said Patty Flynn, president of the 235-member CSRP local union. Carthage is a rural town, just a few miles from the Army base of Fort Drum. It used to be home to a lot of paper mills, but those businesses are long gone.
Robinson and her driving colleagues use incentives to motivate the students to donate. For the middle school students, she bought a $25 gift card to be raffled off from names of the donors. For the younger students, she handed out lollipops. Another bus driver made homemade cookies, and each student who donated an item was handed a sweet treat.
Robinson also approached some local businesses, and they filled several bags with paper products.
The school mechanics, school teachers and school health care professionals helped with donations as well. The West Elementary School also did its own food drive.
This year, drivers rolled up to the Carthage Food Pantry in the “Stuff A Bus” with 1,015 food items to donate, and 50 non-food items.
“The lady at the food pantry was pleased,” said Robinson. “She said now they have enough for Christmas groceries.”