Tonight, Santa will be ditching his much-beloved sleigh for some new digs with more hauling capacity. As part of the annual Labor of Love/Stuff the Bus Toy Drive, he's riding a special Port Authority bus through the South Side to collect an estimated $15,000 in toys donated by local union members.
"It's very important. We have a lot of people who are out of work. This is labor saying that we are part of the community, and we want to help," AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison Joe Delale said.
The toys will be delivered to hundreds of low-income families throughout December. The work will be done with the help of approximately 15 community services agencies.
In its 12th year, the Stuff the Bus drive is one of the largest holiday toy collections in Pittsburgh. Even with tough economic times facing many families this year, Delale expects donations to match or exceed last year's $15,000 total. He says that, for many involved, the rewards greatly outweigh the costs.
"The people who are donating really like to do this. They know they are helping children. They do not want any child to go without a Christmas. If you see the looks on the faces of those children, the smiles just tell it all. It's all the 'thank you' that we need," he said.
Each year a variety of toys is collected for children of all ages, including play toys for toddlers and gift cards for teenagers.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse, Santa's special bus will be decorated inside with Christmas bulbs and evergreens. Passersby can also recognize it by the marquee: instead of listing a route number, the lights will flash "Labor of Love/Stuff the Bus."