Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Stuff the Bus brings thousands of donations to Caring Closet

Clothes will be donated to needy families across TTSD

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Byrom Elementary students haul donated goods for the Stuff the Bus event.When Rose Money heard last week that three elementary school children had arrived at their school without shoes, she knew just what to do.

The girls had lost their shoes after their father, in the midst of a substance-abuse-related rage, burned them, she said. They had no money for new shoes.

“Within a half hour, we had a full wardrobe and shoes for the girls,” said Money, the director of the Tigard-Tualatin School District's Caring Closet.

Every year, the Closet donates thousands of clothing items and other necessities to needy families across the district.

Last week, the Closet held a special one-day clothing drive to collect items to refill its dwindling stores for next school year.

During the event, known as “Stuff the Bus,” students across the district collected unwanted clothes and other items, stuffing them into two large yellow school buses on Friday. The bags were packed from floor to ceiling for Caring Closet.

“Stuff the bus! Stuff the bus!” students chanted at Byrom Elementary, cheering on a group of fifth-grade “student ambassadors” as they hauled huge bags full of clothes and other donations onto the school bus parked in front of the building.

“Everyone seemed very excited,” said parent Amber Coe.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The youngest students chanted for the older ones at Byrom Elementary as they donated goods for Stuff the Bus.“They’ve been standing out front of the school advertising with their posters each morning to remind the parents and kids,” Coe added. “Yeah, this is one of our big activities.”

Volunteer Bonnie Duncan traveled from school to school in the Tualatin area on one of two school buses that were stuffed Friday.

“Awesome — they’ve been wonderful,” she said of the students who helped out and loaded her bus. “I mean, this is a big deal, and a lot of the classrooms have competitions, like who can have the most (donations).”

After picking up clothes at each of the schools, the buses returned to Tigard High School to drop off the donations. That’s when the real work begins, she said.

“We’re just kind of the hands that help,” Coe said.

Hundreds of volunteers

It takes hundreds of people to run the Stuff the Bus each year, Money said.

“It’s pretty awesome,” she said, watching as students and volunteers sorted clothes and examined the donations at the Closet’s headquarters at Tigard High School. “We just love this.”

All told, thousands of clothing items were donated during the one-day drive, Money said. It will be months before they have a complete count of what was donated.

“It’s a machine,” Money said as students formed an assembly line to move bags off the school bus after it arrived at Tigard High. “We’ll spend the summer sorting it all and figuring out what we will stock in the store for the visits this fall. We’ll probably be able to keep and use about half of what came in today.”

The Closet works with local families, who come and shop for a week’s worth of clothes and other amenities. The clothes are given free of charge.

Money estimates that the Closet will donate about 45,000 items to Tigard-Tualatin students in need this school year, and the clothes it can’t use are donated to other local charities.

Last Friday’s Stuff the Bus event was nothing new. Money said that it’s not uncommon for people come out of the woodwork to support the Closet’s mission.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - All of the organizing students at Byrom Elementary pose for a picture after filling the bus.“We’ll put out a call for girls shoes, and by the end of that day have 10 pairs,” Money said. “It’s pretty extraordinary.”

Money said that many of the families that the Closet helps also give back, in their own way.

“Probably 90 percent of the people using our services donate back to it with clothes their kids have grown out of,” Money said. “It’s not about taking a handout, they’re helping and participating in it.”

Yvonne Green, a volunteer with Caring Closet for the past two years, helped sort clothes on Friday. Green started out working a few hours a week at the Closet, but now is there three days a week.

“I’m there because of the kids,” she said. “The more you’re there, the more you see the need. Once you see their faces, they aren’t anonymous. It’s a family, and they have a situation, they have a story.”

Green said that devotion to local kids is what has made the Closet so successful.

The Caring Closet addresses a problem that many people don’t realize exists, Green said.

“It can be invisible,” Green said. “You don’t see them, but we see them. We’re united by the cause of wanting to help the kids and their families.”