Jerome Minton stood Sunday by a school bus in the parking lot of a Bradenton Publix with Remona Stevens. As they conversed and laughed, the two Tropicana employees loaded packs of applesauce and apple juice onto the bus. It was barely noon and the bus was already nearly packed with food for families and individuals in need in Manatee County. Cardboard boxes filled with rice, canned vegetables and soups lined the inside of the bus.
Minton, 45, and Stevens, 43, were part of a network of about 400 volunteers Sunday who contributed to “Stuff The Bus,” an event held at all 15 Manatee County Publix locations in partnership with Tropicana, Manatee County District Schools, I Heart Radio, United Way of Manatee County and The Food Bank of Manatee. The main organizers are United Way and The Food Bank of Manatee.
As part of the event, each Publix location had donation stations set up in stores and received food items to “stuff” each school bus in the parking lot. All donations will benefit The Food Bank of Manatee, according to a release.
The Publix where Minton and Stevens volunteered is located at 3913 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton. Minton, a Lakewood Ranch resident, had been loading the bus since 9 a.m. Sunday. He said he usually volunteers for “Stuff The Bus” every year.
I understand what this does for people who don’t have food, who don’t know how to feed their children, send children to school hungry. So for me, because I have a good job and I can do it, it’s my obligation to give back.
Maureen Gluff, HR representative at Tropicana and volunteer
“I just like doing it,” he said. “I like helping out.”
“It’s part of our culture too, right? Tropicana culture is helping,” added Maureen Gluff, who works for human resources at Tropicana. “What I know is, from my own personal experience, not me, but members of my family have been hungry — I understand what this does for people who don’t have food, who don’t know how to feed their children, send children to school hungry. So for me, because I have a good job and I can do it, it’s my obligation to give back. It’s my responsibility and I love doing it.”
Catie Cartee, 23, and her mother, Carol Cartee, 56, walked in the Publix at 3913 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, and noticed the food drive. As the mother-daughter pair from Tallahassee later left the store, Catie handed one of the volunteers a 24-pack of bottled water. Catie’s mother said she and her daughter feel badly for those that are in need.
“We wanted to help,” said Catie.
Publix district manager Tim Henning said food donations in Manatee County are slow in the summer, so “Stuff The Bus” is a great way to replenish The Food Bank of Manatee.
“It stays here in Manatee County,” he said. “What we’re collecting goes over right here on 301 and is distributed all through Manatee County.”
The community outreach and generosity has been incredible,” Lee said with a wide smile. “People want to help.
Anne Lee, chairwoman of the Board of Directors for United Way
Anne Lee, the chairwoman of the Board of Directors for United Way, said she had been to several Publix locations Sunday.
“The community outreach and generosity has been incredible,” Lee said with a wide smile. “People want to help.”
The Publix at 4651 Cortez Rd. W., Bradenton, was also packed with boxes of food early Sunday afternoon. There, Lincoln Middle School teacher Angel Calcorzi worked with other volunteers by the bus in the middle of the parking lot. Calcorzi, who is affiliated with multiple organizations including the Sea Scouts, said his children were also helping.
“Community involvement is big not only in the scouting organization, but in school,” he said.
Over in Palmetto at the Publix located at 1101 8th Ave. W., Palmetto, Lincoln Middle School Dean of Students Francisco Miranda said there is need in the community, and in his school.
“We know our community needs a lot of support, especially those who can’t get what they need — you know those basic needs like food,” he said. “But partnering with United Way and with Publix, we’ve been able to siphon or flow that need to our buses so we can take it to the collection point and they’ll have, maybe not enough, but they’ll have at least something to be able to share with our community’s needy.”