SMOKEY POINT — While the weather outside was less than hospitable, the inside of the Lakewood School District bus parked in front of the Arlington Walmart on Saturday, Nov. 17, stayed busy with activity from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., as the second annual “Stuff the Bus” food drive looked likely to exceed last year’s collection totals.
Lakewood School District Transportation Supervisor Marlene Rosenbach and her helpers inside the bus stayed on their feet, bustling between the seats and up and down the center aisle to take in and sort out the donations of food, hygiene supplies and other useful items that they received from Walmart shoppers throughout the day.
“We’re doing just awesome,” Rosenbach said at 1 p.m. “We almost can’t keep up,” she laughed.
Last year, Lakewood School District bus drivers collected more than 4,000 pounds of food, filling a 40-foot-long school bus in the process. This year, Rosenbach estimated that the bus was getting filled up even faster.
“We’re ahead of where we were at this time last year,” Rosenbach said. “We’ve had Walmart customers buy whole shopping carts of food just for us. Walmart itself rolled out two carts of donations for us, which was new to this year’s ‘Stuff the Bus.’ Several people drove here just to give us food. We even ran out of fliers explaining which items we most needed, so we sent someone out to make more.”
Among the most needed items this year have been baby formula and diapers. As Rosenbach and her crew of about 30 volunteers have been handed shopping bags, they’ve organized them by rows within the bus, to distribute them more efficiently. Last year’s food items were donated to the Arlington and Marysville community food banks. This year, the Stillaguamish Senior Center has been added as a recipient.
“We’ve seen wonderful participation from the drivers, the kids who ride their buses and those kids’ parents,” Rosenbach said. “Lakewood cheerleaders came out to support us, and a Gleneagle family that lost their home to a fire earlier this year brought us food because they said it was their turn to help someone else.”