As families gathered in downtown Fort Wayne on the night before Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas season, the girls and I navigated traffic on our way to help unstuff-a-bus. For 15 years, local radio station, Fun 101.7 WLDE, has organized and hosted a radio-thon to collect food for the Associated Churches Food Bank. Each year, buses are parked at different locations across town and the community is encouraged to drop of their food donations in an attempt to “stuff the bus.” This year, four buses were used during the event which took place for three days during Thanksgiving week. Our role on this evening was to help remove the food from the buses at the Associated Churches warehouse.
When we arrived, volunteers were working on the first bus. It was large city-transport bus filled with food. We were greeted warmly by those in attendance. We signed in on the volunteer log and jumped into the work. There was a nice assembly line created to handle the goods. A few people were on the bus who handed it out the door and then we passed it along. Those at the end of the line dumped the food into the large cardboard bins for it to be stored. After a few minutes, bus one was empty. As we waited for the second bus to arrive, more and more volunteers poured in. We witnessed a true sign of community on this evening. Many people, with their families, were volunteering their time to help others. There were so many other holiday events taking place in the city that they could have attended. Their choice was to serve instead.
The second bus was a small school bus. I jumped into the back of the bus and handed food out to the girls through the emergency exit door. Other volunteers were manning the front door repeating the same process. Once again, the assembly line approach allowed us to quickly unload and move the food to the appropriate collection area. It did not take long to unload this particular bus. The group of staff and volunteers were chanting “two down, two to go.” We prepared the receiving area for the next bus as it arrived. Bus number three was a large, Greyhound style bus. In an effort to be on the front line, the girls and I jumped onto the bus to be at the beginning of the process. As we entered the bus, we were amazed at the amount of food on it. We devised a plan with a few others and started grabbing the food. We laughed and joked as we sifted through the food items. Some of the boxes were extremely heavy which made it difficult for MaKenna to handle. She was grunting and moaning as she tried to lift and hand them off. The two gentleman on the bus were a real treat to work with. They made conversation with us and really made the girls laugh and enjoy the experience. Being on the bus, we had the opportunity to see how full the bus was and track our progress. We slowly moved towards the back of the bus. Emptying seat by seat. Grabbing items that had rolled underneath seats. As we handed out the last few items, a large cheer came from the volunteers. As I exited the bus, I was expecting to prepare for the next and final bus. I learned that, while working on bus number three, the final bus pulled in outside and it was unloaded by another group of volunteers. I was so busy working on our bus that I did not know it had shown up. Hence the cheer from the volunteers. We were done. In two hours, four buses containing over 10,000 pounds of food were unloaded.
We were glad that we could assist on this project. We had a great time working with the other volunteers while supporting a great organization. The Associated Churches are “communities of faith united through acts of compassion, education, and service to our region.” The food bank is just one of the ministries. In 2010, over 85,000 individuals were provided food through the food bank. The items we unloaded during our experience will help to feed individuals in our area. You can learn more about Associated Churches and all the ministries by visiting their website at http://www.associatedchurches.org.
It is the season of giving. As you gather with friends and family, think about how you can impact the lives of those around you. There will be many people in our neighborhoods and communities who will spend the holidays alone with nothing. As a family, find a way to volunteer in the month of December. Serving and sacrificing for others seems so right during this time of year. The experience will teach life lessons that will not be forgotten. I am very proud of my family. They continue to be angels through this project accepting every challenge. Their giving spirit continues to grow, inspiring others along the way. Starting with me.