In a vast bus garage in Eldridge, 45 bus drivers gathered this week to help more than 120 senior citizens and needy children in northern Scott County.
This is the sixth year for the Angel Party, put on by LuAnn Baetke, transportation supervisor, and 45 drivers who work for the North Scott Community School District. This district has the largest busing program in Scott County covering an area of about 210 square miles.
The Angel Party is an effort supported financially by the drivers and the social services arm of Thrivent Financial, Davenport.
Action teams use seed money for the projects, Baetke said, and the contributions buy items for 80 food baskets for senior citizens, and enough toys and gifts for 46 packages for needy children and teens.
The gifts for the children will be distributed from the Angel Tree at the Scott County Public Library in Eldridge.
The collaborative effort involves the local grocery store, North Scott Foods, which donates apples for the gift baskets, Baetke said. Other items in the baskets were baked goods from the drivers, and sweets like ribbon candy.
"This really brightens their day," Baetke said.
The event gets bigger every year, according to Kyle Lane, the district's lead bus mechanic. He said he and helpers clean out the bus garage for the Angel Party and erect rows of tables and chairs for the potluck breakfast which begins the day.
"This is really neat," Lane said, noting he was in the bus that traveled three blocks to the library last year and delivered presents for the Angel Tree.
"I am proud to be part of this," Lane said.
Sharon Alexander, a bus driver, was in charge of buying gifts for the children. This year, all of them came from local stores in Eldridge, she said.
After breakfast on Thursday, the bus drivers wrapped the 46 gifts for the Angel Tree for the children, and also put wrap and bows on the 80 gift baskets for the seniors.
"This is incredible," said Tracy Lindaman, a new member of the North Scott School Board, as she wrapped a present. "It is such a great project for the community," she said. "I am grateful they invited us."
Lindaman's gift was for an 18-year-old student and it included a heavy sweatshirt and candy.
Dorri Townsend, a bus driver in Park View, was busy wrapping gift baskets with the help of Leon Moeller, who drives in the Dixon area. The baked goods are appreciated by the seniors, she said. "Some of them can't bake anymore," she said.
Larry Dannatt was a bus driver for North Scott before he retired. His wife, Carolyn Dannatt, a financial adviser with Thrivent, attended the Angel Party as the firm's representative.
Carolyn Dannatt described the Angel Party as a "collaborative effort" and applauded the charitable aspect of the program. The toys for the children are important, she said. "They might not have a toy Christmas if the agencies weren't able to help out."
The Angel Party ends after a school bus delivers all the gifts to the library and bus drivers fan out into the community to distribute the gift baskets to 80 seniors who still live at home.