Thank you, Tauranga.

You filled an entire bus with thousands of much-needed donations for the Tauranga Community Foodbank.

By the end of the day yesterday – after visiting 42 businesses, childcare centres and community organisations around the city – it was standing room only on board the bus.

There were boxes of food and groceries on all of the seats, under the seats and down the centre aisle. There were bags of donations on top of other bags of donations.

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It was a sea of food for the people in our city that need it the most.

Foodbank board chairwoman Sharon Hitchcock, who spent the day on the bus helping, said she was "blown away by the generosity of our community".

"What an awesome experience today has been. Whether it was a business, childcare centre, gym, you name it – the theme for the day was one of giving and sharing the Christmas spirit," she said.

"By the end of the day the bus was exploding – only standing room for us lucky ones on board that were able to witness the generosity of the food coming on board."

Hitchcock, taking in the mountain of donations around her, said Christmas was going to be a lot brighter for a lot more families this year.

Some of the people who were on board the bus celebrate the thousands of food and grocery items that were donated yesterday. Photo/George Novak
Some of the people who were on board the bus celebrate the thousands of food and grocery items that were donated yesterday. Photo/George Novak

The first stop of the day, at 8.30am, was at Sport Bay of Plenty.

Staff member Laura Weaser said the organisation was "really stoked" to be part of the Fill the Bus initiative.

"Obviously Christmas is a time for giving and we're really happy to give back," she said.

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The second stop was at the Bay of Plenty Regional Council office on First Avenue in central Tauranga.

The regional council supplied the Bayhopper bus that was used for the day of collecting and also handed over five boxes of donations.

Lochie Murray (front) from Maungatapu Kindergarten with friends, (L-R) Shahna Wallace, Sam Wicks, Zeke Lukic-Calder and Jacob Meyrick. Photo/John Borren
Lochie Murray (front) from Maungatapu Kindergarten with friends, (L-R) Shahna Wallace, Sam Wicks, Zeke Lukic-Calder and Jacob Meyrick. Photo/John Borren

Simon Neate, transport marketing advisor, said the council, its transport team and the greater group were keen to support such a promising charity.

"Just to help those less fortunate during this time of year and also maybe we can promote public transport at the same time and help people contribute to reducing the congestion in our city."

As the day progressed, the temperature outside the bus – and the volume of donations inside it – climbed steadily.

People of all ages – even as young as 10 months old, from all walks of life and from all industries and workplaces banded together to support a worthy cause.

Once unloaded from the bus, all the food and grocery donations filled the floor at the Tauranga Community Foodbank. Photo/George Novak
Once unloaded from the bus, all the food and grocery donations filled the floor at the Tauranga Community Foodbank. Photo/George Novak

Throughout the day there were also two other vehicles racing around the city collecting donations.

The foodbank van was filled to capacity twice and still went back for more.

And The Hits vehicle ferried car-loads of donations to the bus from companies and organisations all around Tauranga.

There were moments when members of the public spotted the bus parked up on the side of the road and rushed up to hand over food and groceries.

The Fill the Bus driver Tony Andrews – who not only drove the entire day but also helped load donations – even popped home quickly so he could also contribute to the foodbank.

The way in which Andrews manoeuvred the bus around the city, getting it down tricky driveways, through tight squeezes and in and out of car parks, meant all locations were stopped at and all donations were collected.

The Fill the Bus driver Tony Andrews popped home quickly so he could also contribute to the foodbank. Photo/Scott Yeoman
The Fill the Bus driver Tony Andrews popped home quickly so he could also contribute to the foodbank. Photo/Scott Yeoman

It was a day of giving, 13 sleeps from Christmas, and by the end, everyone on the bus was glowing with sweat and buzzing with excitement.

Thank you, Tauranga – for an experience that will be hard for us to forget and for a contribution that will help feed hundreds of people this holiday season.