Volunteers were hard at work at the entrances of Walmart Friday encouraging shoppers going into the store to be sure and pick up a toy to stuff the bus as they came back out.
The annual Stuff the Bus toy drive is held by the I Support My Community group in an effort to make sure no child goes without Christmas gifts each year.
“It went really well,” said organizer Farando “Sly” Best. “We originally were going to leave at 8 (p.m.), but we went ahead and left at 6 when it started slowing down.”
The drive began at 6 a.m. Black Friday morning, with a big white Elkin High School activity bus parked in front of Walmart on CC Camp Road, and for several hours Friday morning, race car driver Chris Hudspeth of Ronda joined the volunteers with his late-model car, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
“Somebody gave $500 worth of stuff at one time,” said Pastor Craig Smith, a Boonville resident and pastor of Emmanuel Pentecostal Church in Pilot Mountain. “A lot of people are giving money, so we’ll just have to shop for some things.”
In fact at the end of the day, $700 in cash donations had been given along with clothing, school supplies and 174 toys, reported Best on Saturday.
“We just love helping people in general, but at Christmas, it’s being able to put a smile on kids’ faces is worth it, to be able to help them,” said Smith. “I think it’s good for people to teach the kids to give back. Take a blessing from what you want to be able to give back. We live in a society where it seems to be all about the person, and we need to share.”
Hudspeth said this is the second such event he has been part of in the past couple of weeks. “It’s very good what they’re doing helping kids with toys,” he said. “Sly was talking to us about it and we said we’d love to bring [the car] out here.”
Two weeks ago, Hudspeth was at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church for a similar event.
“I love doing stuff like this to help kids in the community,” he said.
Hudspeth began racing go-karts when he was 6, and ran those until he was 15. At that point, he started racing a four-cylinder dirt car at Friendship, but high school sports took all of his time so he took a break from racing.
His senior year he got an asphalt car and began running with the CARS Late-Model Stock Tour series, so he travels all over North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia competing.
“It’s very competitive. The Earnhardts have a car racing in the series,” he said, adding someday he hopes to race on a bigger level.
“I want to thank Sly for inviting us out here,” he said of Friday’s Stuff the Bus.
Best said there are still some needs to provide Christmas for the children in the community. He said the group could use some small bicycles and especially some items for the 13- and 14-year-old range.
Donations are being accepted until Dec. 15 at Midtown Barber Shop on East Main Street in downtown Elkin.
Best expressed thanks to Hudspeth, who he said was a big attraction for the group, as well as McDonald’s, Arby’s, Waffle House and Mazzini’s for providing meals for the volunteers.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.