PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — From peanut butter to canned soup, pallets of non-perishable food items filled a 1975 vintage CityLink bus parked outside Kroger on Lake St. in Peoria for the 10th Annual Day of Stuffing.
With just 12 days left to donate, the Day of Stuffing is a push to drive more donations for the 36th Annual Stuff-A-Bus Food Drive benefitting the Friendship House of Christian Service in Peoria.
“We want people to come out today and drop off donations. They can also go inside and shop, they can do a cash donation. There’s a lot of ways you can contribute,” said Emily Watson, director of marketing at CityLink, the main sponsor of the food drive.
Marcellus Sommerville, CEO and president of Friendship House, said donations from the food drive stock their pantry for five to six months, but the need in the community continues to grow. Right now, they are going week to week for food donations.
“That number is always increasing. Just last year I think we had a total of over 40,000 individuals in the Peoria area…The issue of hunger is huge in our community because in our area, we don’t have any grocery stores. We operate, in a sense, as a grocery store,” he said.
According to the Friendship House website, most of their clients live below $13,000 per year. The pantry provides an average of 150,000 meals each year.
“It could be anyone from a family, a larger family to an individual, possibly someone that’s a senior citizen on a fixed income and doesn’t have the resources to buy food. So it’s really a large variety of people they could be helping,” said Watson.
Watson and Sommerville said it’s heartwarming to see so many donations pour in year after year.
“I think that most people around this time of year realize how lucky they are to have what they have in their life. Knowing that others are not as fortunate makes them more in the giving spirit…It’s a really rewarding time because we’re able to see people that have chosen to come out and support it. So we enjoy seeing how much the bus fills up over the course of this day,” said Watson.
“I think Peoria every time around this year, always seizes the moment. That’s why we were able to reach our goal last year and surpass it,” said Sommerville.
The Peoria Mustangs and Peoria Chiefs’ mascot Homer were on hand to put donations on the bus. Watson said the goal is to fill the bus, and then some.
“My hope is that we’ll continue to see more donations pour in and that we’ll see this bus overfill, and hopefully need to use a different vehicle to accommodate the food we collect. Last year, that was the case and that was always a good problem to have,” she said.
Last year, the food drive collected a record 12.47 tons of food. This year’s goal of 13 tons hopes to surpass that.
The Stuff-A-Bus Food Drive goes until November 29. Food and cash donations are accepted at all Kroger locations in Peoria and East Peoria.