Fill the Bus brings community together

Tatum Fjerstad

Passion and excitement electrified the air as the founders of the student group Winter Warmth from U prepared for the Dec. 1 second annual Fill the Bus clothing drive.

“We want this to become a tradition, so it’s exciting and something to look forward to, like Spring Jam and homecoming,” said Surbhi Madia, a first-year psychology and education graduate student.

This year, instead of the group’s creators – Madia and her boyfriend, John Barber -doing all the work, a committee of students, community advisers and friends have volunteered to make the event even better than the last, Madia said.

The clothing drive lasts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last year, people lined up at 5 a.m. to donate, and Fill the Bus gathered more than 10,000 articles of clothing, filling five Campus Circulator buses.

This year, the group said it hopes to be more prepared. Winter Warmth from U has been planning the event since September. Madia said the group realizes anything can happen, and it hopes to be ready for what might come.

“We didn’t know how many people would show (last year),” said Barber, a nutritional science senior. “We weren’t prepared. It was amazing that we even got those clothes out of Coffman (Union).”

Madia said, “Random student groups came to show support, cheerleaders and jugglers came and did their thing.”

Since last year’s success, Fill the Bus has more than doubled its number of sponsors, she said.

Several of the sponsors are giving out hundreds of gift certificates to those who donate.

“The support we are getting is amazing – people are bending over backwards to help us,” said Madia’s brother, Virat Madia. He is a committee member and a physiology and political science junior.

This year members of the University and surrounding communities are encouraged to donate, Surbhi Madia said.

“Last year, I got an e-mail from a woman from Chicago,” she said. “She said that she obviously couldn’t be there, but she wanted to know where she could send a check.”

Virat Madia expressed his appreciation for the togetherness Fill the Bus brings to campus.

“We have a campus of 50,000, and with all the rioting and drinking stereotypes, it’s great that we can pull together and do something this great and dispel those stereotypes,” Virat Madia said.

Virat and Surbhi Madia shared story after story about touching moments they witnessed and shared with people donating.

“A janitor walked up with three or four bags of clothes and he said, ‘I clean here at the “U” and I find these scarves and mittens and turn them into the lost and found,’ ” Virat Madia said.

” ‘When no one picks them up, I bring them to you. I’ve been saving these for you since September.’ “

Surbhi Madia shared a different story.

“A man walked by and he didn’t know what was going on. He had nothing but the coat he was wearing and he took it off,” she said.