2017-11-24 / Front Page

Stuff the bus

Cape students learn meaning of Thanksgiving
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Rewind 100.9 FM morning host Chuck Igo takes a load of nonperishable food items from Cape Elizabeth Middle School students Friday, Nov. 17 as part of the radio station’s Stuff the Bus, an annual campaign to provide food to Preble Street. (Michael Kelley photo) Rewind 100.9 FM morning host Chuck Igo takes a load of nonperishable food items from Cape Elizabeth Middle School students Friday, Nov. 17 as part of the radio station’s Stuff the Bus, an annual campaign to provide food to Preble Street. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – The Custom Coach bus that pulled into Cape Elizabeth Middle School last Friday morning wasn’t carrying students, but another important cargo: nonperishable food items for those in need.

For the last dozen years, students at Cape Elizabeth Middle School have participated in Rewind 100.9 FM’s Stuff the Bus, a benefit for Preble Street, a Portland organization that operates a food pantry, soup kitchen, shelters and provides social work and other services to those in need.

“We really try to talk up the purpose of the drive, where the food is going and why it is important to help those that are less fortunate,” said fifth-grade teacher and student council advisor Carrie Newton. “Particularly in a community in Cape Elizabeth, we have people of different income levels, but a lot of our students come from fortunate families who are able to give back and raise that awareness for the kids.”


Students in Carrie Newton’s fifth-grade class pose in front of the bus they helped to stuff. For the last dozen years around this time of year, students have been collecting food items to be donated to needy families and individuals in advance of Thanksgiving. Last year, the school collected 3,000 food items. (Michael Kelley photo) Students in Carrie Newton’s fifth-grade class pose in front of the bus they helped to stuff. For the last dozen years around this time of year, students have been collecting food items to be donated to needy families and individuals in advance of Thanksgiving. Last year, the school collected 3,000 food items. (Michael Kelley photo) The importance of donating food for those less fortunate was not lost on many of the participants, including seventh-grader Faraz Kazmi.

“Every little bit helps,” said Kazmi, who collected 30 food items for the drive.

Madison Kirwan, a fifth-grader at the school, said she is thankful for what her family has and is happy to do her part to give to those who need help.


Cape Elizabeth Middle School students examine a box of donated food before it is loaded onto a Custom Coach school bus as part of an annual campaign to “stuff the bus” with food for Preble Street food pantry and soup kitchens. (Michael Kelley photo) Cape Elizabeth Middle School students examine a box of donated food before it is loaded onto a Custom Coach school bus as part of an annual campaign to “stuff the bus” with food for Preble Street food pantry and soup kitchens. (Michael Kelley photo) Chuck Igo, Rewind 100.9 morning host, has been involved since the first food drive, said it is not uncommon for the drive to completely fill the school bus, which this year is traveling to 17 schools in two days on Nov. 17 and Nov. 20 before making stops at Hannaford in Portland and South Portland and eventually Preble Street. The folks at Custom Coach and Limousine, he said, are always quick to send another empty bus for collection.

Igo said when the Stuff the Bus campaign first started it was just him and the bus driver. Now, a dozen years in, Igo is aided by many volunteers, including students from South Portland High School and his son, Connor, a 2011 South Portland High School graduate, for Friday’s effort.

“Many of the kids take to heart the meaning of the drive and of Thanksgiving, which is being thankful for what you have and helping others,” Igo said as he made his way to Small Elementary School in South Portland.

The effort in Cape Elizabeth began in October, but has really picked up over the last week or so of the food drive.

“That final week, the kids get excited and really bring food items in,” Newton said.

Newton said during the last week, members of the middle school student council visit each homeroom picking up the food items and announcing which homeroom is leading the in-school competition. Newton said last year students and staff collected 3,000 food items. This year students collected 2,736 items.

Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street estimates that during the last dozen years, the radio station’s Stuff The Bus effort has collected and donated about 1 million pounds of food, including 110,000 last year.

“It’s a huge effort. We are on pace to serve or distribute 600,000 meals this year at Preble Street so we need a lot of food. We need a lot of support. We need a lot of volunteers to do that,” Swann said. “The Stuff the Bus is a big part of that effort.”

Swann said the food collected during this year’s Stuff the Bus campaign will be used at the soup kitchens the organization operates at the Resource Center on Oxford Street, the teen center on Cumberland Avenue, the Florence House, a facility for homeless women on Valley Street and the weekly food pantry.

Cape Elizabeth Middle School was just one of the stops the bus made on Friday, Nov. 17. It also visited Falmouth Middle School, Ocean Avenue, Longfellow and Lyseth elementary schools in Portland and Brown and Small elementary schools and Mahoney Middle School in South Portland. On Monday, the bus visited Pleasant Hill, Blue Point and Eight Corners primary schools, Scarborough Middle School, Wentworth School and Heidi’s House Preschool in Scarborough, as well as Skillin and Kaler elementary schools and Memorial Middle School in South Portland.

“We love this is happening in the schools, young people are getting involved and learning about hunger and poverty and how to be charitable and kind,” Swann said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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