The year 2020 has been tough for everyone, and there are people in need throughout the Camas community. The long-lasting tradition of Stuff the Bus, coordinated by Camas High School’s Associated Student Body, is continuing this year, despite the complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, December 9th, students and community members drove through the CHS parking lot and dropped off their donations. Mask-wearing and socially distanced CHS students and staff greeted them and unloaded the food from the givers’ cars.
Event organizers made several changes to the typical Stuff the Bus event due to health safety guidelines. Instead of doing class competitions or competing against neighboring Washougal High School, CHS is just trying to raise as much food as possible for local communities.
The Camas School District, working with the Washougal School District, and the Camas-Washougal Business Alliance coordinate this event.
CHS Associate Principal Tim Fox said, “We’ve also never done a drive-up drop-off before. In ‘normal’ Stuff the Bus years, we do one big loading and unloading of buses at various locations in Camas and Washougal. And we use all 40-50 of our ASB/Leadership students (as well as Washougal’s) to accomplish that. This year, due to Covid regulations and the challenge of having so many people gather, we’ve opted for weekly pickups and drop-offs that require fewer people to be in contact with each other. ”
In spite of the challenges and limitations, Fox said, “We’ve gotten more food during this time than we did last year, just as Camas High School. That part we’ll definitely keep.”
CHS ASB Officer and Senior Carter Koranda said, “We are missing out on the school announcements; it used to be really easy when your teachers would encourage you to bring in food, and we would have class competitions.”
CHS chemistry and ASB teacher Charlotte Waters likes the less competitive aspect of the event this year.
“It’s so different. We’re not competing, we took the whole competition part out, which I think is great because I like the idea of giving to give, not giving to get something,” she said.
People who showed up to donate followed a specific route to prevent traffic backup and keep things flowing.
To ensure everyone’s safety, the people donating were not able to leave their cars. Instead, they opened their trunks and let ASB officers of staff members take out the food.
CHS Junior Kevin Klave said, “The overall process was pretty seamless. There weren’t many other cars when I was there so I was able to pull up, roll down my window, and have a volunteer take my food super easily.”
Students and staff did not know what to expect for the turnout this year, but as the day progressed many were able to see the community come out and support the cause.
ASB Officer and CHS Senior Mark Harimoto said, “It has been pretty good, surprisingly really good. It is just good to see a bunch of faces, that I haven’t seen in a while.”
Koranda added, “I would say better than what was expected for sure, especially with everything going on. It is nice to see people going out of their way to drop off food for a good cause.”
Fox said, “Obviously, right now I don’t know what situations a lot of families are dealing with, but you see things in the news and you read about people who are struggling. Lots of people have lost jobs or lost some form of income. If we can help supplement some of that through this process, then that’s our hope every year.”
Waters added, “In a normal year people really need this food, and then this year there’s an even bigger need that we’re not aware of completely yet. The longer the pandemic goes on and the more job loss, this impacts people financially, the more we’re going to need.”
She mentioned that ASB might put together another Stuff the Bus type event later on in March as the need in the community is better understood.
“We don’t want anybody to go hungry. All those things that are necessities, we are going to make sure people have,” Waters said.
CHS staff reflected on the importance of the event and how they hope the donations help those in need.
CHS math teacher Lori Leighton said, “I think maybe in the spirit of what’s been going on for months, hopefully realizing that we are in fact a community and we should be focusing on the good and coming together for good things.”
“Well like everyone knows, it is tough times for everyone. If we can help any family I think it would be great,” CHS Principal Tom Morris added.
In addition, CHS students expressed their thoughts about the importance of the donations.
“I like to see volunteers impact people’s lives, even when they don’t see it themselves. A lot of people don’t even know what’s going on in our community,” Harimoto said.
Klave added, “I hope that my donation can help those who have had their lives majority disrupted by the pandemic. I recognize how fortunate I am to not have been severely impacted by this pandemic and I wanted to help those who have.”
Fox said that there was a great turnout for the event and that ASB did a good job with advertising.
He said, “We’ve done really well this year. The fire station actually can’t take any more food. Hopefully, we can create a surplus of food so that we can spread it out in our community even more.”
The food is donated to the CAROL Program and Children’s Home Society.
On Friday, December 11th, ASB officers will go to the shelter, drop off, and unload all the food from the bus.
Leighton said, “If you have anything to give, then it’s only going to help. These are our neighbors and the people we interact with. We need to care about each other. We pass each other in the grocery store, on the street, this is a community. We have to remember to keep that bond strong.”