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Rostraver Elementary students stuff bus with toys

Rostraver Elementary School Principal Jennifer Godzak (left) and school secretary Lynette Indof flank first-grade student Ava Bauer during the school's third annual Stuff A Bus campaign held Friday, Dec. 6, 2013.

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Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 7:49 p.m.

When Jennifer Godzak became principal of Rostraver Elementary School in 2011, she wanted to do something for the community.

Speaking with district bus driver Larry Boyd, Godzak's concerns were realized. Boyd, a Salvation Army volunteer, confided with Godzak and district secretary Amy Strenske that the need during the holidays was expected to be even than usual.

After giving the teachers the option, they chose to create a program to help the Salvation Army.

Then Boyd was given the quest — with the help of the students and teachers — to stuff his bus with toys for needy children in the community. That's how the Stuff A Bus campaign began. Last week, the third annual Stuff A Bus campaign was completed.

In many schools, classrooms conduct gift exchanges each year. Instead, the children are asked to donate a toy for a needy child in the community.

Beginning shortly after 9 a.m. Dec. 6, students began filing out of the school and onto the bus where they placed their gifts. They were greeted by Santa Claus at the front of the bus.

Godzak and the school's office staff dressed as elves to assist with the event.

Lt. Susan Thwaite of the Mon Valley Citadel of the Salvation Army said all of the toys collected were taken to the Monessen office for sorting before being given to needy children in time for Christmas. Thwaite said her organization received “a gym full,” roughly 720 toys.

Each student donated at least one toy and some students donated even more.

“Through the generosity of many families, they made sure each student had at least one toy to put on the bus,” Thwaite said.

Thwaite said drives like Stuff A Bus help the Salvation Army to enhance what they give to students.

“For every child that comes in and signs up for out Treasures for Children, we make a wish list,” Thwaite said. “Less is coming back for these children. So these drives are important. They fill in those needs. These toys permit us to fill in for any children who otherwise might not get a gift for Christmas.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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