Stuff-A-Bus and Help Keep Children Warm This Winter
The nights are getting colder, signaling that fall is just around the corner, and we will soon be relishing the crisp breezes and frosty mornings as we think about the winter ahead. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice skating, and building snowmen. For many, it is bittersweet to pack away flip-flops, shorts, and tank tops, but for some school children and their parents, the change of season does not bring thoughts of being warm in a parka or snow boots. They cannot pack away the shorts and flip-flops, because they do not have any other clothes that fit and their parents cannot afford to purchase socks, underwear or even pants, never mind a winter coat or warm boots.
Amber Guth, along with a network of sponsors began the Stuff-A-Bus program last year to help fill this need, after seeing children in the schools wearing shorts and flip-flops in January because they did not have any other clothes that fit. Not only are these children cold, but they are also teased and ostracized by other, more fortunate kids.
The stories the kids told Amber last year about how they felt and were treated before they got the clothing was a powerful motivator and Amber hopes to see this program expand throughout Montana and the country. Her teen daughter saw the difference in kids at school, who received clothes from Stuff-A-Bus, and asked Amber to continue the program, after she originally resented the time her mom spent working on the project.
Most of us know what it feels like to wear a new outfit, “You feel like a rock star.” Amber’s goal is to make sure every child gets to have that feeling, “everyone should get to feel like a rock star” she says. You can help make that possible with your donations to Stuff-A-Bus.
Amber remembers the feeling of being that kid at school growing up, and is now a single-mom struggling to provide for her own family. She wore the same pair of tennis shoes for three years, which caused her pinky toes to be deformed. There is not always enough money, no matter how you pinch pennies and tighten up your budget. In the current economy, more and more families are feeling this stress and weight of trying to provide the things their children need and not having the resources.
Not having the resources to provide for your child doesn’t make you a bad parent. There will be not questions or judgment through this program. Simply ask for what is needed and with the help of the community and Stuff-A-Bus, Amber will do everything possible to ensure all the needs are met. The goal is to have all the needs met by November, so none of the children will have to go to school in clothes that are not suitable for the weather.
Caring, loving, and wanting to do what is best for your children is not always enough and often these parents agonize and stress over how they will provide the items for their children.
Amber has partnered with Bozeman Kiwanis as well as several other local businesses to provide hats, coats, socks, boots, snowsuits, and pants, shirts, shoes, or any other clothing needed. Cash donations will purchase items that are needed but have not been donated or should be new, usually shoes.
The first year the program served over 600 people and provided over 2000 coats, 300 pairs of shoes, and 100 pairs of snow-boots to children in need in our community. The ability to provide for these needy children depends on the community. One of the most amazing parts of the Stuff-A-Bus program last year for Amber was when people who came in need returned the following day with outgrown items to donate back. You do not have to be wealthy to help; you just have to have gently used outgrown winter items that no longer fit your children and donate them to Stuff-A-Bus.
Children learn best and therefore have a better chance at success when they are happy, comfortable, and feel like they fit in. When you are wearing the same pair of pants, because they are the only pair that fit, every day, you will feel uncomfortable and awkward, and sadly, will probably get teased. Then you are focused on your lack and embarrassment, rather than learning. Every child deserves to feel ‘normal’ among his or her peers. Stuff-A-Bus wants every child to feel ‘normal’ and part of the group, rather than singled out because of a lack beyond their control. Together, we can make this happen in our community.
Another goal Amber hopes to achieve is to build more of a network and communication between the various resources for struggling families and homeless teens. Most likely, if they cannot afford warm clothing, there are other needs that are not being met as well. If you are part of an organization that helps families in need, make sure other resources have your contact information and know what services you provide.
While you are cleaning out your children’s dressers, or bringing out the winter boxes, if anything can no longer be used by your family and are gently used, please consider donating them to the Stuff-A-Bus program. Every child deserves to enjoy the pleasures winter has to offer in Montana. Donations can be dropped off in Bozeman at Speedy Print, Mountain West Bank, REMAX Realty, and in 4-Corners at Bozeman Community Thrift Store (please specify the donation is for Stuff-A-Bus when donating at the Thrift store).
Stuff-A-Bus is not administered by any government agency. All you need to do if your child needs things that you cannot provide for them for the coming winter is to call Amber at 406-599-5666 and make an appointment. If you know of a family in need, please contact Amber to arrange to help that family.
Stuff-A-Bus can be found on facebook at www.facebook.com/Bozeman-Stuff-a-Bus
Lee Strickler is a freelance writer and network marketing professional, working on her MFA in Creative Writing through the University of New Orleans, residing in Bozeman with her family.