GHENT — Ghent VFW Post 5933 members kept themselves busy with good deeds Saturday, hosting two charitable events.
The first was the “Stuff the Bus” toy drive in which the VFW fills a 60-seat school bus with unwrapped toys to be donated to children in the community. The second event of the day was the “Coats for Kids” drive in the afternoon, in which free jackets and winter items were distributed to children in need.
“Stuff the bus was an idea we came up with about three years ago,” organizer and VFW Auxiliary member Patty Warden said. “It gave the community a chance to be involved in what we are doing.”
People in the community could participate by donating toys during the drive. Use of a 60-passenger bus is donated to the VFW every year by Michael S. Johnston, LLC. Toy donations to fill the bus came from all over the community.
“This year we have all but three seats filled with unwrapped toys,” Warden said.
This year they received donations from 35-40 families, she added.
“Some people came with bags of toys,” Warden said.
“Stuff the Bus” is one part of a larger charitable fund called the Marion Stegmann Fund. The Kinderhook Elks Lodge, in partnership with the Ghent VFW Post 5933, work together to collect toys and food for families in need during the holiday season. Items are collected all year long and distributed to families in Northern Columbia County on Dec. 15. The donations go to families in need who apply to program. Applications are taken until Nov. 24.
The December event is coordinated by VFW and the Elks, with members dropping off the donations to the families.
“It is a major undertaking,” Warden said. “We have never missed a delivery day yet.”
“All of the money and toys raised for this fund goes right back into the community,” Ghent VFW Commander William Lowder said. “One hundred percent of everything raised goes back into the community. It is not spent for anything else.”
Coats for Kids, also held Saturday afternoon, is a one-day event in which families can stop by the Ghent VFW Post to pick up jackets and winter items for their children.
“We give away free coats and apparel,” said VFW member Ed Northup, who organizes Coats for Kids.
Northup collects donations from organizations like Walmart, Goodwill and from around the community.
“We just ask that the coats are clean and in not-bad shape,” Northup said.
The clothes drive has been part of the VFW for a long time, Northup said. In years past the program has given out between 150-250 items; last year 50-75 individuals came to the event.
These charity programs have become a part of the volunteers’ lives.
“It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until this stuff happens,” Warden said “This is part of our Christmas,”