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Easton area philanthropic groups team up for fifth annual "Stuff the Bus" campaign

Frank Pintabone
It's time to "Stuff the Bus" in Easton, with organizers encouraging residents to contribute daily necessities and some special gifts for children and families in need across the city.

EASTON, Pa. — It’s that time of year again when one reflects on how thankful they are for all they have. It’s also a great opportunity to provide some help to those in need, including children and families across Easton.

This Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, Family Connection of Easton, the Easton Area School District, the Greater Easton Development Partnership, and the City of Easton are teaming up for the fifth year to “Stuff the Bus” and make the holidays brighter for children in the area.

The partnership is inviting the public to make donations of new toys, winter wear, non-perishable foods and personal care items that will be distributed to Easton children and families in need just in time for the holidays.

Suggested donations include toothbrushes for adults and children, toothpaste, bar soap, adult and baby shampoo, body wash, laundry detergent, tissues, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, pull-ups from sizes 4T to 5T, any sized diapers, toys for children from preschool age to fifth grade, board games, basketballs, soccer balls, kickballs, canned pasta and ravioli, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, jelly, sweatpants for middle school students, white crewneck t-shirts for middle school students, underwear for boys and girls of elementary school age, shoes for boys and girls of elementary age, and stretchy pants or sweatpants for boys and girls of elementary school age.

“Every community has families in need, and the response has been wonderful over the past few years, how the community comes together and gives so selflessly to help everyone in their community. It's such a joint effort."
Greater Easton Development Partnership Director of Special Events Marcy McKinney

Organizers are stressing that any contributions be new, in original packaging, as to ensure the items are safe and clean.

Executive Director of Family Connection of Easton Keela Vincent said the event “allows us to collect items that our families need and use throughout the year, and it allows us to be able to better serve our community from year to year as we do this collection every year.”

“We’ve had challenges obviously during COVID, but now that we're back up and everybody's out and about in the city, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm around our campaign. We've been really pressing hard out on social media and really trying to get people invested and involved, so we've already got a good collection of stuff here today. And we're looking forward to the weekend and being down here on the circle,” Vincent said.

Greater Easton Development Partnership Director of Special Events Marcy McKinney said the “Stuff the Bus” campaign is a wonderful example of how communities show compassion.

“Every community has families in need, and the response has been wonderful over the past few years, how the community comes together and gives so selflessly to help everyone in their community. It's such a joint effort,” McKinney said.

And while those basic, everyday items may seem like a drop in the ocean for most people, for those in need, it can make quite a difference, McKinney said.

“It really does. And, you know, it's things that we take for granted every day that just means everything to someone who doesn't have anything. And you know, it's what you do – you give back to your community and your fellow man,” McKinney said.

Keep an eye out for the school bus from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at Easton Area High School’s 25th Street entrance, and from 12 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25 and Sunday, Nov. 26 in Downtown Centre Square to drop off your contributions to the cause. Family Connection will also begin accepting donations once the Easton Winter Village opens at 5 p.m.

If you can’t visit the bus in person during those allotted times, you can also swing by one of the many community partner sites throughout the city which are accepting donations through Monday, Dec. 4.

Those who can’t make it to any of the Easton locations can also make monetary donations via the Family Connections of Easton website.

Events such as “Stuff the Bus” are pivotal to supporting families in need across Easton, as Easton City Councilmember Dr. Roger Ruggles noted many students throughout the area struggle with homelessness and affording even the most basic necessities.

“I just want to report I attended a homeless meeting down at Third Street [Alliance] since our last Council meeting, and there were some interesting statistics that were provided there. There are actually 175 children that are in the school district that are homeless,” Ruggles said during a council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said he plans on attending each “Stuff the Bus” event this season, as always, being that “it’s important to give back to the community, and the mayor should be seen giving back so that he or she sets the example for the rest of the community.”

Panto also credited Stephen Flowers, owner of Suddenly Samantha salon, as a prime example of a resident who provides a helping hand for those in need – “He’s just a good community guy, just constantly volunteers and gives back, raising money for kids.”

The mayor added that since Thanksgiving is a holiday that transcends cultural and religious boundaries, it can serve as a time for everyone to appreciate their lot in life, and take a moment to spread the good tidings to people in need, “and I think that’s important.”

As McKinney put it, the holiday season, especially as of the past few years, has been a time to reflect on the importance of family and friends, and slowing down to appreciate how much those bonds mean is an important part of the celebration itself.

With the help of charitable events like “Stuff the Bus,” those in need can take a moment of peace to enjoy their holiday with loved ones, as “It’s just something that’s even more so now in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, especially around the holidays,” as McKinney said.