PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Pasta, canned goods, paper products, and other foods and supplies were unloaded from the classic 1970’s CityLink bus and stockpiled in the gym of the Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service Tuesday morning.
The 34th annual “Stuff-a-Bus” food drive has come to a close, and CityLink leaders were proud to announce they collected 10.16 tons of donations, over 20,000 pounds.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s joyful to be able to feel the support,” said Marcellus Sommerville, President & CEO of the Friendship House.
The bus was filled to the brim, and excess donations were put on a CityLink van. Emily Watson, Marketing Coordinator for CityLink, said they exceeded their goal of 10 tons.
“This morning, whenever Cory from the union called me and told me how much the bus weighed, it was a huge relief to see that we collected, actually over nine tons on the bus, and then we collected an additional over a thousand pounds on a van,” Watson said.
This year’s food drive was a warm welcome after last year’s virtual drive.
“I think that it probably made a lot of people in the community excited because it is such a visual thing to see the bus fill up with donations over the course of the food drive,” Watson said. “I think that this was just a great way for them to get some semblance of normalcy back by collecting physical donations instead of doing something virtually.”
Sommerville said he was overwhelmed, seeing the bus unloaded for the first time as president.
“This is the first time, so I’m going to find out how to manage that, right? As you see, it’s quite amazing, man, to see how many people have given,” he said.
He said he got to witness the generosity of the community at the Nov. 18 “Day of Stuffing.”
“Hearing families saying, ‘you know what, I don’t have much but I’m gonna give a couple cans, you know, something, to help the cause for the community,'” Sommerville said. “I think it brings a sense of pride, a sense of joy to Peoria. And it’s ultimately a blessing from God that we are able to fill that bus. It’s amazing. It truly is.”
At a press conference, Tuesday morning, the Peoria Rivermen and the Peoria Mustangs showed up to unload the bus bit by bit.
“It’s great to have lots of strong hockey players here to help do all the heavy lifting,” Watson said.
“I was joking around saying they didn’t have to lift today, they’re gonna get it in with the stuff we’re unloading from the bus,” Sommerville said.
Sommerville said the food makes a big impact on the community.
“Us being here in the north valley, there’s no grocery stores, so in a sense, we feel as though we are the grocery store,” he said.
He said Friendship House leaders told him to expect the food to last about 6 or 7 months.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he said. “You know, having the problem of having too much food at the moment, but knowing that it’s going to go out to the community rapidly, and it’s a good problem to have today.”