ELKO — Kim Bolin unloads bag after bag of new toys from her van and hands them to Varmae Betancourt, who stacks them in a Coach bus in the Sunrise Shopping Center parking.
“I get stuff I would love,” she says. “There are 21 Barbies in there.”
Betancourt stops midstride, lifts her face to the sky and says, “Oh, I love Barbies!”
The Mattel dolls donated Nov. 30 are among the donations that will “Stuff the Bus” this December as part of an annual charitable campaign by the same name for Elko children in need this holiday season.
Betancourt, owner of Taco Time, has been organizing the campaign for 14 years. She started out the first year by filling a small church van with donations. She now yearly fills a charter bus with goodies to benefit more than 100 children ages 3-10.
Supporters that contribute money and other donations include Coach USA, Barrick Gold Corp., Brent Stoke’s State Farm Insurance agency, Great Basin College nursing program, East End Merchants, JC Penney, Wild Rose Florist, Albertsons and community members.
Drop off boxes and cash collection jars are set up at many of the businesses in the Sunrise Shopping Center and GBC, and Wells Fargo has an account set up under the name “Stuff the Bus” to which monetary contributions can be made.
The charitable drive accepts new, unwrapped toys, blankets, games, coats, cash and nonperishable foods. The last day to donate is Dec. 8, and distribution is set for Dec. 9. To be considered as recipients, families must have applied by filling out a distribution signup sheet available at Taco Time, 2520 Idaho St., by Dec. 6.
On distribution day, the children walk through the bus and survey the bounty, divided into selections for boys and girls on either side of the aisle. With the help of regular volunteers, including Olivia Rice, children are fitted with coats and other necessities, then they pick their favorite toys. Parents receive bags of food.
“I felt like there was a need in Elko for it,” Betancourt says. “It started small, and it’s grown to this.”