'Stuff the Bus' collaboration aims to ready kids for school

7/17/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

USD 457 data shows that about 71.27 percent, or about 5,448, of the 7,644 children enrolled in the district last year were considered economically disadvantaged.

For this reason, Janie Perkins, coordinator of supplemental programs for USD 457, and several local agencies are joining forces to provide backpacks and school supplies to students who qualified for the free and reduced lunch program last year.

The Finney County United Way, Salvation Army, CASA, the Finney County Community Health Coalition, USD 457, Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion are collaborating for an event called "Stuff the Bus." From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 24, the organizations will be collecting donations in the Dillons East parking lot at 1305 E. Kansas Ave. to be given to students prior to the start of the school year.

The agencies are asking for backpacks and school supplies to fill those backpacks. Supplies needed vary by grade level.

Susan Escareno, executive director of the Finney County United Way, heard about the "Stuff the Bus" program at a state United Way directors meeting.

"Several of the United Ways across Kansas do the 'Stuff the Bus' program," she said.

Organizers hope to collect 1,000 backpacks or more, all stocked. Perkins said this objective is part of the larger goal of equipping students for educational success.

"The goal is to make sure that each child that needs school supplies or a backpack will come to school on the first day with all the tools they need," she said.

Escareno said people will be able to give beyond the July 24 collection date by dropping off backpacks and/or supplies at any of the participating organizations.

On July 29, Escareno said they are going to be stuffing backpacks at the J.D. Adams Vocational building. Target and Dillons employees will be helping to both stuff and distribute the backpacks, but Escareno said volunteers are needed to help with stuffing in particular.

Then, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 9, backpacks and school supplies will be distributed at the American Legion, 405 S. Main St. Proof of qualification for free/reduced meals from the school district is required.

"We're also going to look at other families that maybe didn't qualify (for free or reduced lunches) last year, or maybe are new to our community, to see how we can help them. We're not going to turn anyone away. If someone comes in and says, 'I have a need, or my child needs a backpack or school supplies,' we're going to do our best to help them out," Perkins said. "That's why we're having this drive, so all the agencies can come together and have the book bag and school supply drive and try to meet all the needs of the families of the community that have that need."

Lori Jacobs, executive director of CASA, where 40 backpacks full of supplies were already dropped off by Bible Christian Church, said people can also donate monetarily.

"In addition to the backpacks and the supplies and everything, of course donations are welcome, as well, and then we can purchase the items that we need to put in the backpacks for the kids," Jacobs said.

Perkins said pooling resources from all the agencies will have a greater impact than if individual agencies worked on their own. This the first year all the community organizations have worked together on a project of this nature.

"We're hoping this becomes an annual event so we can maximize our resources and try to meet the needs of our community," she said.

She added she will have more concrete data about students' needs next year.

"I think we'll have an idea as far as what the need might be, or how many people will be impacted. That's one of the things we're going to be collecting data on, so we can see how many students we helped out this year, and then we can kind of plan (accordingly) for next year," she said.

For more information, visit the Chamber of Commerce website, www.gardencitychamber.net, and click on the "Stuff the Bus" link. Those interested in either volunteering or donating may contact Escareno at Finney County United Way, 275-1425.

Items needed, by grade level:

Early childhood and 4-year-olds

* One backpack

* One package of watercolors

* One package of washable markers

* Three glue sticks

* One 16-ounce bottle of Elmer's Glue

Kindergarten through fourth grade

* One backpack

* One package of 24-count crayons

* One large eraser

* One pair of scissors

* Two glue sticks

* Six No. 2 pencils

* Two wide-lined spiral notebooks

* Two packages of wide-lined loose-leaf notebook paper

Second through fourth grades will also need:

* One package of colored pecils

* Three plain-colored pocket folders

Fifth and sixth grades

* One backpack

* One package of colored pencils

* One large eraser

* Two glue sticks

* Six No. 2 pencils

* Two black, two blue and two red pens

* Two one-subject spiral notebooks

* Two packages of wide-lined loose-leaf notebook paper

* Three plain-colored pocket folders

Seventh and eighth grades

* One backpack

* One package of colored pencils

* One large eraser

* Six No. 2 pencils

* Two black, two blue and two red pens

* Two college-ruled spiral notebooks

* One package of college-ruled loose-leaf notebook paper

* Three plain-colored folders with brads

High school

* One string backpack

* Two college-ruled spiral notebooks

* Two packages of college-ruled loose-leaf notebook paper

* Two black, two blue and two red pens

* Six No. 2 pencils

* Two plain pocket folders

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