What started as a small business networking group 12 years ago has turned into an annual Camas and Washougal School District food drive to benefit Children’s Home Society, the C.A.R.O.L. program and the American Legion of Skamania County.
It’s called Stuff the Bus.
“Typically we raise on average 60,000 pounds of food,” said Tabitha Shaffer, a Stuff the Bus organizer. “A couple years ago we hit 80,000 pounds, and we literally stuff the buses. There are usually two or three buses from each high school. A total of four to six buses, and we drive around to all the local schools and pick up literally tons of food! It’s a great event!”
Beginning November 1, the area schools will begin collecting food in designated bins.
“We pick up all the food on December 6 from the schools in Camas and Washougal,” said Angie Cherry, a Stuff the Bus organizer. “We collect from everyone who has participated, and all of the kids get a high five as they help us load the food in the bus.”
Each bus is weighed before it’s filled so organizers know how many pounds have been collected. Last year, Washougal beat Camas — but it’s a friendly competition. The students bring in canned food from home and sometimes classrooms are even rewarded for their efforts.
Beginning November 1, the Stuff the Bus organizers will rally the schools to start collecting food. Volunteers will stand out in front of Safeway (November 23, 24 and 27 from 10 am-6 pm) asking for food or money donations, and Grocery Outlet also runs a promotion for food bags that can be purchased, which helps Stuff the Bus get more food for their program.
“Our goal is to provide enough food for the entire year so that our beneficiaries can give to people in need,” said Cherry.
The C.A.R.O.L. Program gathers and delivers toys for kids 18 and under, as well as family food boxes during the holiday season. The American Legion of Skamania County distributes food baskets to Veterans and Children’s Home Society distributes about 365 bags of food to families in need per month.
Children’s Home Society also supplements the backpack program.
“Every year we count on our community to support the program with cash and food donations,” said Shaffer. “We usually raise about $7,000 per school district, which goes directly to the cause with the exception of our operating costs. Starbucks in Camas and Washougal also donates coffee and hot chocolate.”
And it all comes to a fun finish on December 6, kicking off with a meeting at each High School. They load kids on the buses and then they go to the schools and collect from the area middle schools — all with a fire and police department escort.
It’s literally stuffing the buses.
Once collected, the goods are delivered to the non-profits.
Stuff the Bus is looking for businesses or people to sponsor the event. Sponsors get their name on T-shirts and get advertising on their website — www.CWBusinessAlliance.com