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HomeBusiness & CommunityStuff the Bus was a success!

Stuff the Bus was a success!

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The annual Stuff the Bus school supply collection effort, a project of the United Way of Hernando County, really lived up to its name this year, with donors contributing more than 5,751 lbs of school supplies to be distributed back to local classrooms. This included more than 2,027 boxes of crayons, 2,102 highlighters, 2,869 glue sticks and so much more!

“Hernando County really came through for these students,” said United Way of Hernando County Executive Director Angie B. Walasek.

Stuff the Bus is a unique giving effort in which the United Way of Hernando County places school buses throughout Hernando at participating Publix and Walmart stores to collect and store all of the donations needed to provide local teachers and their classrooms with the tools required for the new school year. These school bus locations are populated by dedicated Hernando teachers and volunteers who gather to collect donated school supplies for Hernando County classrooms.

The need to help is pressing, as studies show that teachers spend an average of $750 of their own money each year on classroom supplies and needs.

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“Our drive is unique in that we align with the teachers,” said Walasek. “Some parents may not have enough money left in the family budget to afford all of the school supplies on their children’s lists or the transportation to come out and receive donations. We provide the supplies directly to the teachers, so they can keep them in their classrooms and identify students who need them.”

During the course of the July 7th Stuff the Bus weekend, teachers representing 21 Hernando County schools and other community partners volunteered their time and collected incoming donations. Volunteers logged 420 hours as they collected donations at Publix and unloaded, sorted, counted and divided up the items at the Parent Academy the following week. Additionally, the community collectively raised $6,757 in monetary donations to purchase additional specially requested items for teacher volunteers and their classrooms throughout the 2023-2024 school year.

“In the past several years, we lacked teacher volunteers because of the COVID crisis and available school buses because of the lack of working drivers,” said Walasek. “But this year, we had both components in place, and it made such a difference. They are advocates for classroom needs.”

Stuff the Bus teacher volunteers truly believe in and support this effort. Returning volunteer and local Pine Grove Elementary School teacher Tasheba Kimble stated, “I think that Stuff the Bus is a great way to raise awareness for my classroom needs, but more importantly, my students’ needs. Because of this initiative, teachers can ensure that their students are fully prepared with the supplies necessary to have a successful school year! It’s such an amazing way for residents to connect with teachers face to face and directly hear about their classrooms.”

“It’s heartening to see the community come together to support such an important cause,” she continued. “Education is a fundamental right, and every child deserves the opportunity to learn and grow. United Way’s Stuff the Bus supply drive is a fantastic way to ensure that the children in Hernando County have access to the resources they need to succeed in school, despite their background.”

As an additional incentive for their participation, all school teachers who completed an extra Stuff the Bus volunteer shift the weekend of July 7th were automatically entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card for their classroom. The winners, selected at random, are Kimble and Lynda Karczewski from Deltona Elementary School.

Walasek thanks United Way’s partners in education: Publix Super Markets for continuing to support the needs of local classrooms; Walmart Supercenter on US19 and Distribution Center in Brooksville for their donations; Hernando County Transportation for coordinating the pickup and drop off of the school buses to the stores; The Parent Academy for advocating during this year’s event; and to all Hernando County School Board teachers, United Way Partner Agencies, community partners, and Hernando County residents “for continuing to LIVE UNITED and supporting Hernando’s Annual Stuff the Bus.” She also thanks sponsors who conducted internal employee drives for Stuff the Bus donations and those who applied their artistic skills to the creation of donation boxes that resemble school buses.

“We have close to 1,600 teachers in our Hernando School system, and this is exactly why this event remains a priority for our team,” she said. “If we can alleviate even the slightest cost burden for a teacher by providing folders, a backpack, or composition notebooks so they can, in return, provide them to a student who’s in need of the basics, then that is exactly what we’ll continue to do.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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