Though students now aren’t meant to sit too close on the bus, the Miller Place Fire Department, for the 10th year in a row, is using every inch of space in a bus that bears its own logo.
MPFD’s 10th annual Stuff-a-Bus event managed to fill every seat in their red-and-white bus to the brim with food and other essential items donated by the community. All food was delivered to the St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach for its food pantry.
Items were donated by fire department members and the surrounding community at the annual Stuff-a-Bus event held at the Miller Place Stop & Shop Nov. 20, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to the donated items, Miller Place EMS Capt. Rob Chmiel, who headed the event, said they received nearly $1,000 in cash and gift card donations. The cash was used to purchase items the department was short of, and the gift cards were given directly to the food pantry staff, so they could use them to address their needs in the future.
Though normally the fire department holds its donation drive over two days, on the night of this year’s event, Chmiel said that they were receiving an incredible amount of donations, more than they usually do. They even received a car full of groceries by a volunteer at 4 p.m. By around 5:30 p.m., just two hours into the six-hour event, they had filled half the bus through several dozen residents donating a few boxes, cartons or jars at a time. By the end that same bus was packed to the seams.
“We set out to make this the biggest year we possibly could, given the pandemic and everybody being stuck at home for most of the year,” Chmiel said. “We broke every record we possibly could.”
Elaine Bender, outreach director for St. Louis de Montfort Church, said the department did a “fabulous job” as they got way more than initially expected. The gift cards are also a big help as those are needed to help needy people purchase big ticket Thanksgiving items like turkeys.
The late afternoon-evening event was a large-scale operation, with a score of department volunteers bringing food to the bus and loading it up as music rang out over the crowded lot on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Other fire department volunteers stood by the doors to the supermarket asking local residents for donations.
“There’s a lot of hungry people right now,” volunteer Lori Aliano said.
Since the pandemic’s start, Bender said the church has seen an increase in the overall number of clients they help. She added she expects there could be an increase in need should there be another statewide shutdown in the near future.
Chmiel thanked Marchand’s School of Dance for their yearly donations and Stop & Shop of Miller Place for allowing them to host the drive.
St. Louis de Montfort Church also hosts a drive for Christmas and will be accepting gift cards from any shop that sells toys supplies and/or clothing. Donations can be dropped off at the church located at 75 New York Ave. in Sound Beach.