Stuff the bus

Volunteer Rhonda Beam (left) and Sue Young collect donations at last year’s “Stuff the Bus” school supply drive. This year’s drive will be held Aug. 8 and 9 at Gainesville’s Wal-Mart and Muenster’s Fischer’s Market.

Normally school buses are filled with children, but on Aug. 7 and 8, Cooke County United Way is hoping to fill a bus with school supplies to ensure local students don’t have to do without.

As part of its second annual “Stuff the Bus” school supply drive, United Way is partnering up with the Cooke County Boys and Girls Club and Sacred Heart Outreach to collect new school supplies ensuring all of Cooke County’s students start the school year with the items they need.

Tents will be set up and a bus will be stationed outside of Gainesville’s Wal-Mart where area residents can drop off things like backpacks, notebooks and pencils to ease the burden of parents who might not be able to purchase school supplies for their children. Donations are also being accepted at Muenster’s Fischer’s Market.

United Way Director Angie Hare said this year’s need for donations is greater than ever due to a struggling economy.

“We’ve got a lot of parents who, maybe they’ve been laid off or they’ve lost their jobs...There’s all kinds of scenarios that would throw a person into these situations,” she said. “They’re just having a hard time fitting all the supplies into the amount of money they receive.”

She added that although last year’s drive was met with good results — 4,000 items and about $700 cash were donated — a similar collection will certainly help, but might not be sufficient.

“We need more (supplies) than we got last year because the need is greater,” Hare said.

Tricia West, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Club responsible for distributing the supplies accross the county, said last year, donations did not provide enough backpacks to meet the area’s needs.

“We deal with enough kids in the afterschool program to know that if they don’t have one, stuff doesn’t get brought home,” she said.

Not being able to carry all the materials they need to do their homework or study, means some students might not be able to work to their potentials.

Aside from backpacks, there’s a large demand for spiral notebooks. One for each student isn’t always enough, West said, as some teachers require students to have upward of four or five to record material for all of their classes.

Not only does the drive benefit students who might otherwise have to do without, Hare said the drive can also serve as a learning experience for children wanting to help their peers.

During last year’s drive, Hare recalled, a few children asked their parents what the tents were set up for. After the parents explained, they gave their children money and told them to buy supplies to donate. The children stuck to their assigned budgets and were able to contribute to the cause.

“That was kind of a neat little experience for them,” Hare said.

Hare said items can be purchased from anywhere, and all types of supplies are needed. To make things as easy as possible, donors can simply drive up to the tents where a volunteer will collect the supplies.

 Last year’s donations benefitted 376 families, most of whom reside in Gainesville, Callisburg, Valley View and Muenster school districts.

“The majority, I would say, they are very appreciative,” West said, adding that some recipients commented that they don’t know how they would have been able to give their children the supplies they need without the donations.

West and Hare said they are also thankful for the support received from the community.

Those in need of school supplies can receive donations by simply calling the club after Aug. 1. After signing up, supplies can picked up from the Boys and Girls Club on Aug. 18 and 19.

West noted that patrons can only receive supplies once, and that staff checks to make sure there are no duplications.

Currently, Hare is seeking volunteers from local businesses and organizations to assist with the drive. Volunteers will be receiving items and sorting them to be placed in the bus.

Those wishing to donate can stop by either Wal-Mart in Gainesville or Fischer’s in Muenster on Aug. 7 and 8. Donations will be collected outside of Wal-Mart from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and at Fischer’s during business hours. For more information contact United Way at (940) 665-1793.

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