Stuff the Bus events help stock area food pantries for the holidays

Paul Garrod -
Sheila Baker, director of the Gobles-Kendall Area Ministerial Association food pantry, left, stands with Gobles High School National Honor Society students, from left, Joe DeYoung, Jackson Rumery, Libbee Nason, and Annika Brunner. Photo courtesy United Way of Southwest Michigan

    GOBLES - United Way’s annual Stuff the Bus Countywide Food Pantry Mega-Drive, hosted by United Way of Southwest Michigan, in cooperation with scout troops, grocery stores, volunteers, and local school transportation providers, was held Saturday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    In Gobles, where Stuff the Bus was held at Village Market, it was “an absolute humongous success due to the hard work of many,” said  Sheila Baker, director of the Gobles Kendall Area Ministerial Association (GKAMA). Food and personal care items were accepted by pantry volunteers and Gobles High School National Honor Society (NHS) students.
    Baker said employees at Village Market, under the management of Victor Jimenez, prepared bags of food items worth from $5 to $20 each. Those bags were purchased by area residents and given to the Gobles food pantry.
    The Gobles-Kendall Area Ministerial Association Food Pantry also covers the Bloomingdale area, where another Stuff the Bus site was set up at Wagoner’s Your Hometown Food Store. There, pantry volunteers and Girl Scout Troop 80185 accepted food and monetary donations for the food pantry.
    Baker expressed her thanks to the individuals and organizations who were instrumental in making it “over the top.” They include:
    Village Market (Gobles), Wagoner’s (Bloomingdale), Gobles and Bloomingdale Public Schools for buses at each site, Gobles High School NHS students, Girl Scout Troop 80185 and their leaders in Bloomingdale, volunteers of the GKAMA Gobles Food Pantry, and United Way of Southwest Michigan (Van Buren County),  and area residents who made contributions of food, love or money  to help people within the communities of Gobles, Kendall and Bloomingdale.
    “Frankly, I am simply overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity of the communities. This was an overwhelming support and affirmation from the entire community for the food pantry,” said Baker.
    The goal of Stuff the Bus is to collect supplies for local food pantries to stock them up before the holiday season when winter fuel bills are high, and when children are on break from school and cannot get free/reduced lunches and/or breakfasts.
    Each pantry submitted a Wish List of its most-needed items.  Local Scout troops and other service groups were on-hand to pass out Wish Lists and collect donations.  They also shopped on behalf of individuals who preferred to make a monetary donation or for whom shopping is difficult.  
    “United Way of Southwest Michigan worked very hard to coordinate all aspects of Stuff the Bus,” said Vera E. Tanier-Sebree, program director of UWSM. “We are so pleased with the support we received.  The community has been quite generous over the years and we’re very grateful for that.”
    Other county sites included Harding’s Friendly Market, Bangor; Dollar General, Covert; Village Market, Decatur; Harding’s Friendly Market, Hartford;
Wagoner’s, Lawton; Wagoner’s, Mattawan; Family Fare, Paw Paw; and Aldi, South Haven.
    For more information, contact United Way of Southwest Michigan at (269) 657-2410.

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