Stuff the bus: Donors kick off event to collect school supplies for needy children

Stuff the bus: Donors kick off event to collect school supplies for needy children

August 20th, 2012 by Rachel Bunn in Local Regional News

Jonathan Gibbons, associate director of community impact at United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and Lindsay Martz, a staff member at United Way, load school supplies onto a school bus at United Way's Stuff the Bus fundraiser at the Chattanooga Market on Sunday. United Way filled a school bus with new school supplies to be donated to the Hamilton County Parent Teacher Association's Teacher Supply Depot in order to equip students from low income families with the supplies they need.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

Hannah and Rachel Lowe, 8, had their hands full of school supplies Sunday.

The twins, who are in the third grade at Westview Elementary school, picked out school supplies from their own stash - including crayons, erasers and what Hannah called a "ruler-slash-calculator-slash-stencil" - to donate in the Stuff the Bus school supply drive, which began Sunday at the Chattanooga Market. The event was sponsored by the United Way of Chattanooga and Hamilton County Parent Teacher Association. The supplies will be donated to the Hamilton County PTA's Teacher Supply Depot.

"We donated because we want to give to people who don't have school stuff," Rachel said.

"And because we want to help people," Hannah added.

Wayne Collins, vice president of marketing and communication for United Way of Chattanooga, said some children need even the most basic school supplies.

The goal is to fill every inch of the bus, from the floor to the roof, with supplies for students, said Bill Stacy, chairman of the United Way.

"Teachers now are welcoming students, and they are noticing what students are missing," Stacy said. "They are saying things like, 'Oh, my goodness, if I only had more reams of notebook paper,' or 'If I only had some colored pencils for everyone.' We want to supply them with those things."

Though this is the third year for the drive, 2012 marks the first year the United Way and the Hamilton County PTA have teamed up.

"The teachers are the ones on the front lines; they see what these kids need," Stacy said. "If we're stocking the depot, we're able to let them get exactly what they need."

At the depot

The PTA's Teacher Supply Depot has been around for 15 years, said David Hughes Hampton, special projects vice president for the PTA. Having the United Way as a partner raises public awareness, he said.

"They needed a partner for distribution purposes, and we were happy to join with them," he said.

Walgreens Pharmacy, Publix Super Markets, the Elks Lodge and CBL & Associates Properties all dropped off supplies Sunday afternoon. Members of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority donated time as well as supplies, staying to help Publix unload its donation.

Frank DePinto, an adult UTC student, said this was the first time he had donated to Stuff the Bus.

"It's a good thing, and it's a fun idea," he said "It's a nice advertising slogan. I think it's a cute gimmick."

Laurie Bell and her son Chandler were drawn in by the bus, too. Though they were at the Chattanooga Market to enjoy the day, and so Chandler could climb the rock wall, Bell said they saw the bus and decided to donate money.

The United Way also had booths inside the market featuring many of its agencies, who offered information as well as games, face painting, bookmarks and hula hooping.

The drive runs through October, and its goal is to collect $40,000 in school supplies.

"It's all about making sure the kids have what they need for school," Collins said. "Education is critical to having a good life. We can make sure that when they get to school, they have the things they need to get an education."