This year marked the 20th anniversary for the annual Stuff a Bus food drive in Rutland, but there was sadness accompanying the milestone anniversary.
Pat Shappy, one of the well-known contributors to the event for years, passed away the night before Stuff a Bus kicked off this year. Shappy, according to Castleton adjunct professor and radio personality Terry Jaye, was a huge part of getting kids involved with the process.
She was the volunteer coordinator for Northwest Primary School in Rutland. Each year the school sets a goal of 2,500 items to be donated. Over the years the students have turned the food drive into a contest and the classes who collect the most items win prizes.
Stuff a Bus started out in 1994 as a partnership between The Salvation Army and Jaye of Mix 98.1 WJJR in 1994. The idea was to reach out and provide food for the poor, homeless, and children during the holiday season.
“The year it started I lived on the bus for three days,” Jaye said “If we didn’t fill the bus it would look like we failed.”
In the first year, Stuff a Bus produced 10,000 pounds of non-perishable items and a $500 donation. It became a tradition for people. Schools started to become involved and donated, parents brought their kids and it became a thriving operation during the holiday season.
The food that is donated is made into baskets that are distributed to needy families during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“You have to love it. You are doing something that makes a difference,” Jaye said “In radio you can be a part of it. It is a rewarding experience as a broadcaster.”
Over the years, the event has grown both in contributions and volunteers. Many volunteers, who started as kids, are coming as adults now and bringing their own children, Jaye said.
This year, 20,000 pounds of food and more than $7,000 in donations were raised.
“It is important that people are aware of the tradition it has become,” Jaye said.