The holidays are a happier time for many families, thanks to the efforts of school bus drivers and monitors who are members of Teamsters Local 838 in Kansas City, Mo. The members have raised funds to provide nearly 4,300 meals to individuals in need this holiday season.
There are two school bus yards in Overland Park, Kan., where every year around the holidays, school bus drivers, monitors and staff reach out. They reach into their cupboards to find canned goods and food items to donate to the hungry. They reach into their wallets to make donations to those who are in need. And they reach into their hearts, to repeat this gesture, year after year.
“It started as a means of getting people to think about union membership, to show what the collective means,” said Larry Miller, a school bus driver and one of the founders of the project. “Collecting food for the poor here in our Kansas City area and donating it is a collective effort to benefit others.”
The effort began while the group was working for First Student and organizing to join the Teamsters. When Durham School Services became the new transportation contractor, the project continued.
The members have worked with Harvesters -the Community Food Network for the past four years. This year they raised 467 pounds of food and $781.63, which will provide 4,297 meals to individuals in need in the Kansas City area.
The numbers are staggering. According to Harvesters, more than 60,000 people in the Kansas City area require emergency food assistance every week, and fully half of those recipients are children and seniors. Almost half of the households served by Harvesters’ member agencies include at least one employed adult.
In conjunction with the food drive, the Teamsters hold a raffle. Each staff member that donates a nonperishable item receives a raffle ticket.
“We go to area businesses for gift donations that we raffle off. It’s a pretty fun thing and gives people an opportunity to win a prize,” Miller said.
They also hold a chili cook-off competition that builds unity and camaraderie among the group. At the end of the week, the members serve up their chili, accepting monetary donations for the best culinary creations. These donations are also given to Harvesters to benefit hungry children, adults and seniors.