The United Way of Tompkins County collected more than 200 donations from students Tuesday as part of its first annual Stuff the Bus event.
Nonperishable foods, personal items and school supplies were collected in a yellow mini-bus parked in the academic quad of Ithaca College’s campus. Depending on the overall success of the event, the national United Way may begin to host similar donation drives across the country, Reynolds said.
Ann Colt, chief development officer of the United Way of Tompkins County said the Tompkins County Stuff the Bus event is one of 11 pilot programs being organized across the country for the United Way. Colt said the Tompkins County chapter is happy to be a part of the pilot.
“We are truly honored,” Colt said. “With this being our inaugural year, we made it coordinate with our Day of Caring [today].”
The United Way of Tompkins County, a regional chapter of the national charity group, conducts several fundraising events throughout the year to benefit low-income residents in the local community.
All proceeds from the donation drive will be distributed to community organizations, food pantries and schools across the county to help residents in need. The Stone Soup Philanthropy Corps, a campus organization run in conjunction with the local United Way that allocates money to nonprofit organizations in the community, helped to organize the on-campus portion of the event.
Senior Mykal Urbina and junior Adam Polaski served as the student contacts facilitating the event between the United Way and the Corps.
“We work closely with the United Way of Tompkins County and their staff,” Urbina said. “They came to us with this event and asked for our support. We have been helping them coordinate this event on campus since.”
On Monday the bus was stationed at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden. After coming to the college Tuesday, the bus traveled to Cornell University for a day and a half and will stop at Stewart Park today.
“It is really an exciting joint venture to collect the most donations and top what was done last year,” Polaski said. “It really is a coalition of entities between all three colleges and the United Way.”
Gadabout Transportation Services provided the mini-bus used for the four-day event, which is a lead-up drive to the 14th Day of Caring sponsored by the United Way.
The organization will continue to collect donations for their annual Day of Caring event today from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Stewart Park.
Colt said she hopes the event will make community members more aware of the poor conditions endured by some county residents.
“This is actually our first initiative on all three campuses to bring awareness of hunger and the need for personal and school supplies in our public school systems,” she said.
Polaski and Urbina said collecting items on campus will help the United Way reach its goal of collecting specific goods needed by the community.
“[The Corps] started about three years ago when I was a freshman as a connection with the local united way,” Urbina said. “We do a lot of fundraising for the United Way.”
Colt said the engagement of the three colleges will play a major role in the success of the pilot. Oftentimes, Colt said he finds students more than willing to help their local community.
“Having three colleges in one county is a real plus for the campaign,” Colt said. “Students are wonderful. They have a lot of energy and
enthusiasm. They understand that there are folks in the community who have these needs.”
Senior Max Orenstein, a volunteer at the drive and member of the Corps, said many students attend these events hoping to make a difference.
“I think students give to charity for a number of reasons,” Orenstein said. “A lot of the time it makes you feel good about getting outand making a difference in the community.”
Colt said she is hoping the success of the event will allow it to become a staple of community charity in the future.
“We are really hoping that this will be successful and build,” Colt said. “Each year it will become a matter of fact that Stuff the Bus will happen.”