Second annual Fill the Bus brings University community together

Tatum Fjerstad

Rosy cheeks and cold puffs of warm breath Wednesday covered the snowy front lawn of Coffman Union as Winter Warmth from U welcomed donations for its second annual Fill the Bus clothing drive.

University students, faculty, staff and members of the community brought clothes in grocery bags, duffel bags, backpacks and black garbage bags.

Two Campus Circulators and two 28-foot U-Haul trucks were filled

by the end of the day. One U-Haul truck was equivalent to almost three buses, so a little more than seven buses were filled, said Surbhi Madia, co-creator of Fill the Bus.

Students explained why they felt it was important to donate.

“I would rather donate than sell to somewhere like Plato’s Closet,” said Matthew Ostrom, a University of St. Thomas student.

Lacy Hennessy, a friend of Ostrom’s, said she agreed.

“I’d rather donate here than to the Goodwill, where the clothes can sometimes go back to people like me,” Hennessy said. “Here, I know it’s going to people that really need it.”

Students expressed the good feelings they had as they donated.

“I gave some good stuff that can be used in the winter, so I feel good,” said Manuel Palacio, a material science graduate student.

As last year, people came from many walks of life to donate.

Madia said a homeless man donated seven bags of clothes. The man told her he has been homeless for three days and that a job, rather than clothes, was what he needed, Madia said.

“It’s amazing that someone in need would give,” she said.

Virat Madia, Surbhi Madia’s brother, and one of several Fill the Bus participants, said he witnessed another special moment.

“An elderly gentleman brought a bag of clothes, and I went to help him, and the man said, ‘Wait.’ He took his coat off and shivered as he donated it. I said, ‘Thank you,’ and he said, ‘No, thank you,’ ” Virat Madia said.

Ben Friesen, an education graduate student, wasn’t part of Winter Warmth from U, but he stopped by to help accept donations, he said.

“This is a different opportunity to strengthen the community,” he said. “I’m surprised to see so many students; I didn’t think they would haul garbage bags of clothes to class.”

Rose Yep, a third-year sociology student, drove her sport utility vehicle to donate nine shopping bags of clothes.

“I usually donate to the Goodwill, but since this is on campus, I cleaned out my closet,” she said. “It makes me happy to help other people.”

University President Bob Bruininks, his wife and Pillsbury United Communities official Chanda Smith spoke at the event.

Though gathering donations is done, the committee will continue working on next year’s event, Surbhi Madia said.

“It’s not over, it’s going on next year,” she said. “My brother Virat (Madia) and my best friend Grace Rice are heading it up next year.”

Such preparations are necessary, as proper planning made this year’s operation run smoothly, Surbhi Madia said.

“I feel amazing,” she said. “Everyone in the committee has worked so hard. I’m so happy and proud of them.”