SYLACAUGA – The first Stuff the Bus Food and Toy Drive is underway in the Marble City.

The drive will benefit Alabama Childhood Food Solutions (ACFS) and SAFE (Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement).

“Alright, you have all noticed it. You all wanted to know why it is there. You have speculated about what’s going on,” said Mike Landers, executive director of the Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce. “Well, the truth is the big yellow Talladega County school bus parked on the west side of the chamber building on West Fort Williams Street is there for the absolute best of causes.”

In partnership with Coosa Valley Medical Center, Pursell Farms and YEA 106.5, the chamber is a drop-off point for nonperishable food items and new toys for families and children in need at this time of year.

“Our intentions, and that of our partners in this effort, is to ‘Stuff the Bus,’” Landers said. “So please, bring much needed food items and toys to drop off at the chamber. You can also come in and give your gifts to (chamber employee) Jennie (Williams), or the offices of YEA 106.5 on Motes Road.”

The executive director went on to say he knows Sylacauga can count on its chamber members to be at the front in charitable giving.

“This effort will ensure food for a hungry person or family and assure that all children in need in our area will have a Christmas gift,” Landers said. “Please give from your heart. The return of on your generosity will be a person not hungry and a smile on a child’s face.”

ACFS is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization in Sylacauga that provides food to food insecure children in five counties in central Alabama. The five counties are Talladega, Coosa, Shelby, Calhoun and Randolph.

Jim and Linda Jones are co-directors of the organization that started in 2011. In a recent story in The Daily Home, Jim Jones said the numbers of children and people in this area who are food insecure is staggering. He said Talladega is one of the five hungriest counties in Alabama.

More than 200,000 children in Alabama are food insecure, Jones said. They have no way of buying food and fear being taken from their homes if they ask for help.

More than 900,000 people in Alabama often do not know where their next meal is coming from, and more than 21,000 kids may go to bed hungry in central Alabama each night when not in school that day, Jones said.

The organization feeds thousands of children weekly in the area.

SAFE started in 1996 as a grassroots effort by a group of volunteers, who set out on a mission to improve the quality of life for families and the community.

Jesse Cleveland, president of SAFE’s Board of Directors, said the organization nurtures the entire family from birth on.

SAFE operates many programs, including a Fatherhood Program, Reality Work Center, life skill classes, rural health outreach, Sylacauga’s Public On-Time Transportation, adult education, after-school programs, Alabama Healthy Marriage & Relationship Education Initiative, family literacy, Get Healthy Talladega County, HIPPY (Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters), medication assistance and many more.

“You all know the reputation of SAFE and Alabama Childhood Food Solutions for getting their services to the right people at the right time,” Lander said. “Their reputation of quality, committed community service should make your choice to add this initiative to your Christmas charity is so easy to do.”

For more information on “Stuff the Bus,” call the chamber at 256-249-0308 or www.sylacaugachamber.com; SAFE at 256-245-4343 or www.safefamilyservicescenter.com; and ACFS at www.alabamachildhoodfood.com or 256-207-8048.