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Local Businesses, Government and Law Enforcement Get Together to Stuff the Bus

The toy and shoe pickup and delivery went to the kids of the People's Self-Help Housing.

Police, local government officials, local businesses and MTD got together Wednesday morning to “stuff the bus” with toys and shoes for the kids of People’s Self Help Housing.

A slow-moving caravan of two buses, escorted by police cars and motorcycles made several stops along State Street to collect shoes from Payless Shoe Source, and bags and boxes of unwrapped toys gathered at Starbucks and Community West Bank. The best part is when we get to Ladera apartments to deliver holiday cheer for the folks living there,” commented Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who was one of several local dignitaries riding in the smaller shuttle bus.

The Stuff the Bus campaign was spearheaded about three years ago by Santa Barbara Police Officer Rick Alvarado, who was once in charge of the Santa Barbara Police Activities League. The first tour was “very quickly put together,” with a couple of volunteer officers. Since then, it has gotten bigger, and the bus had gotten more stuffed, but “people seem to enjoy the smallness of it,” he said.

"It’s just phenomenal," said Jeanette Duncan, executive director of People’s Self-Help Housing. More than 300 pairs of shoes (the most requested item by the children) were collected on this run, and will be distributed along with toys to PSHH families in Santa Barbara and Goleta within the next week.

The collection has become a more anticipated event every year, said Lynda Nahra, president and CEO of Community West Bank, one of the sponsors of the event.  Instead of having a traditional gift exchange at their holiday luncheon just recently, her employees organized a toy exchange to add to the piles and boxes of toys already accumulating at the bank. This year’s collection is estimated to be double the amount of shoes and toys at last year’s Stuff the Bus campaign.

With Santa at the wheel (a very enthusiastic bus driver named Ryan Schwarz), toys filling up the MTD bus and the smaller shuttle filled with sponsors, PSHH representatives, local officials and other guests, the caravan made its way to the Ladera Street Apartments, a PSSH-owned facility. Once there, the toys and shoes were unloaded and County Supervisors Janet Wolf and Salud Carbajal competed to see who could wrap the presents best (Wolf won).

“I’m so impressed,” said Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Helene Schneider. “It just shows how generous the community is.”

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