Stuff the Bus Success

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Our Rob Jones made the City Wire 🙂

story and photos by Brittany Ransom

United Way is helping make going back to school a little easier for hundreds of area families. The 7th annual Stuff the Bus, held July 23 and 24, collected thousands of supplies to help put them into the hands of local children in need.

Buses were parked at Walmart stores in Alma, Booneville, Fort Smith, Greenwood, Ozark, Paris, Poteau, Sallisaw and Van Buren. Volunteers distributed supply lists to customers as they entered encouraging them to purchase items. The event is held in conjunction every year with Walmart’s big “Back to School Sale” when prices are significantly reduced on school necessities. In 2010, more than 34,000 packages of supplies were collected.

“Stuff the Bus is very important to the communities it serves,” said Dee Long, United Way resource development and marketing director. “Some families simply can’t afford the basic items to get their children ready for their first day. Stuff the Bus helps alleviate some of that stress and makes going back to school a better experience for those families.”

Items donated included pencils, pens, paper, crayons, scissors, glue, rulers and folders. Larger items such as binders, calculators and kindergarten mats were also collected. Kleenex and hand sanitizer were just some of the hygiene items included on the necessary supply list for most schools.

Many donors come back year after to year to drop off supplies. On Friday, two little girls brought two entire shopping carts full of items. The two had saved up their spare change all year so they could buy supplies to help other children.

“Those young girls are just one example of the kind of generosity we see every year at Stuff the Bus,” Long said.

More than 650 volunteers participated in this year’s drive.

“This event would not be possible without our volunteers,” said Mitzy Little, also a United Way resource development and marketing director. “It is because of them that that Stuff the Bus is a success year after year.”

Long-time Stuff the Bus supporter Joyce Cokely volunteered for the first time this year at the Walmart store on Rogers Avenue.

“I’ve donated to Stuff the Bus for several years so when I heard it announced on the radio, I decided to donate my time, too,” said Cokely.

A former math teacher, Cokely has seen first hand the importance of providing students with the supplies they need.

“This is a wonderful cause and it makes a difference to a lot of students,” she said.

 The supplies will be distributed to school districts throughout United Way’s six-county service area. For more information, contact United Way at 782-1311.

Rob Jones, Harry Robinson Buick GMC, handed out supply lists alongside fellow volunteers Terry Sweeney and Brandon Sweeney

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