Rotorua, your generosity has broken records.
This year’s Fill the Bus campaign raised the equivalent of $26,000 to help families enjoy Christmas with “full tummies and full hearts”.
It’s the second year in a row that a record has been set for the event.
And those involved have highlighted the generosity of the Rotorua families who dipped into their cupboards for donations despite many “doing it tough” themselves.
The Hits Rotorua 97.5FM’s Fill the Bus campaign is part of the six-week Rotorua Daily Post Christmas Appeal that aims to help stock the Salvation Army Rotorua foodbank’s shelves through the holidays and into 2024.
Each December for the past eight years, a CityRide bus has driven around Rotorua calling on businesses, schools and the public and collecting donated food items for the foodbank.
On Wednesday the bus filled up so fast it had to be unloaded a few times through the day, with donations going straight to the Salvation Army office for counting.
At 4.30pm, before the final busload of donations arrived, Salvation Army volunteers and staff had counted 7151 donated items.
By just after 7pm the total number of items had jumped to 10,699. Assigning a value of $2.50 per item makes the haul valued at $26,882.
The tally sets a new record for the campaign.
Last year, Fill the Bus collected 10,041 items, or more than $25,000 worth. This contributed to a total of $76,500 worth of donations raised in the 2022 Christmas appeal, at a time when soaring costs of living forced some people out of their homes and pushed others to their financial limits.
Salvation Army Rotorua corps officer Hana Seddon said Wednesday’s effort was “really moving and inspiring”, especially seeing some “people who don’t have much willing to share what they have”.
Seddon said this year “feels like for some it has been a tougher year than last year”.
“The difference these donations will make is full tummies and full hearts and relieving stress, giving people the best chance at having the best Christmas.”
The Hits Rotorua radio presenter Paul Hickey said he was so overwhelmed with the generosity the community continued to show, even in trying times.
“To once again surpass 10,000 items is a great result that everybody should be proud of.
“I want to acknowledge all the team we had on the day who helped out as well. A massive achievement to ensure that Hana [Seddon] and her team at the Salvation Army can continue their great work.”
More than 1000 items of the record-breaking Fill the Bus collection came from one school.
Glenholme Primary School’s roll of about 389 students collected 1236 cans and other food items for the appeal.
“We hope that they fill the bellies of our community members,” deputy principal Molly Norton said.
Norton said the school knew “so many families” were struggling and Fill the Bus was an “amazing cause”.
Last year Glenholme Primary collected an amazing 1041 items for the campaign.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Public Transport Committee chairman Andrew von Dadelszen said the council was pleased to support Fill the Bus by providing the Cityride bus.
He said the donations were a “testament to our community’s generosity and commitment to helping those in need”.
“[The cause] aligns with our dedication to fostering a connected and caring community.”
He said the event did more than stock the foodbank’s shelves.
“It also underscores the role of public transportation in bringing our community together for a common good.”
Motion Entertainment in Te Ngae was one of the public donation stops and brand and promotions manager Taliya Boyd-Zame said it was “just part of giving back to the community”.
Boyd-Zame said the company saw many families throughout the year who “might not have that much to spend over Christmas”.
“The least we could do is contribute,” Boyd-Zame said.
Scion general manager Cameron Lucich said, “it’s a great cause for the community and a lot of our people are very community-minded”.
Lucich said the Crown Research Institute’s team was “happy to jump in” and “help the Salvation Army fill the bus”.
Seating To Go employee Diane Klomp said it was the company’s first time supporting the appeal.
“We listen to The Hits and we thought it would be a good cause to support,” Klomp said.
She said the team were rapt with the amount of donations they were able to collect.
“We think every household should donate two cans a week and then there wouldn’t be a shortage of food.”
Maryana Garcia is a regional reporter writing for the Rotorua Daily Post and the Bay of Plenty Times. She covers local issues, health and crime.
Michaela Pointon is an NZME reporter based in the Bay of Plenty and was formerly a feature writer.