Clothing drives the bus for a third year

by Mark Remme

A wave of University community members huddled around the front lawn of Coffman Union on Thursday to warmly embrace the annual clothing drive extravaganza.

This year’s Fill the Bus event saw approximately 1,500 individuals pile an estimated 80,000 articles of clothing into three or four buses, said Fill the Bus co-student adviser and independent studies senior Bailey Smuhl.

Those numbers are comparable to statistics from last year’s drive, she said.

Smuhl said she’s seen the event grow over the past three years because of the work of volunteers.

“Volunteer output is huge,” Smuhl said. “People e-mail us from random organizations, like Carlson students, who just want to help put up posters and take in donated clothing.”

She said that same nature of giving is what sparked the event’s existence in the first place.

“Fill the Bus started when the originators (then-University students John Barber and Surbhi Madia) saw a little girl on their first date without gloves on,” Smuhl said.

Fill the Bus volunteers collect articles of clothing once a year for eight hours. They then give the clothing to nonprofit organizations within the Twin Cities.

Pillsbury United Communities, a nonprofit group based in Minneapolis, has exclusively carried the workload the past two years, Smuhl said, but this year, People Serving People also will help with the cause.

“We are incredibly grateful,” said Rhonda Eastlund, director of the Brian Coyle Community Center, the center where articles of clothing will be kept through Pillsbury United Communities.

“It helps neighbors get an extra coat they are unable to buy, and it helps to fill our clothing closets,” she said.

Third-year math student Katie Lazar said she’s helped with the cause for the past three years because it puts emphasis on the importance of giving.

“We all complain sometimes, but we all have clothes to wear and a hot shower to take,” Lazar said. “We’re very fortunate.”

Amanda Putzer, a second-year psychology student and second-year volunteer, agreed.

“We can all step inside and warm ourselves,” Putzer said, “but others don’t have that option.”

University President Bob Bruininks’ wife, Susan Hagstrum, a guest speaker at the event, said she is proud of the young people involved with the cause who will eventually be our leaders.

Not only is this type of event rewarding, she said, but also it is fun for the students and also helps in the building of the community.

“There are all kinds of activities for kids to do around campus, but they chose to help with this cause,” Hagstrum said.

“My generation could learn a lot from this generation.”