By Heaven Wilson, United Way marketing and communications intern
The day will begin at 6 a.m. when two empty school buses take their place at The Markets at Town Center. Volunteers and staff will wait with great anticipation for what’s to come for the rest of the day. That is how Keto Porter, director of Full Service Schools, envisions the Stuff the Bus community drop-off day will begin Aug. 2, 2019.
Stuff the Bus, a First Coast News and United Way of Northeast Florida partnership, is an annual initiative supporting schools, teachers and students in Duval County. The goal is to collect as many essential school supplies as possible so students can experience greater academic success, while helping reduce the financial burden of teachers who often times have to spend their own money to obtain supplies throughout the school year.
According to United Way ALICE report, two out of five families in Jacksonville, Florida live in or at the brink of poverty. This means many families are struggling to provide basic necessities and may be unable to provide adequate school supplies for their children. “Families are making hard decisions on what they can and cannot pay for and I’m pretty sure school supplies are not going to be as important as rent or food,” said Erica La Spada, manager of volunteer and community and engagement at United Way.
Some students fall behind because of lack of materials, which can result in being held back a grade level. “If students don’t have what they need to succeed, they will find ways to not attend school,” Porter said. Adequate supplies create the basic foundation for school readiness.
“Teachers often spend $600 to $1,000 out of their own pockets to provide for students,” Porter said. “Teachers have limited resources, so this initiative helps eliminate the hardships they might have to endure over the school year.”
Individuals, families, businesses and civic groups, all rally to support teachers and students in need. Stuff the Bus donations benefit Full Service Schools, a collaborative initiative helping students overcome non-academic barriers to academic success. Last year, more than 60,000 school supplies were donated to 87 schools, doubling the previous year’s total. “To see those buses stuffed literally from the floor to the ceiling is quite an experience and a joy to see,” Porter said.
You can register to host a school supply collection drive through Aug. 1 online or simply bring your donations to the community-drop off day Aug. 2. Looking for other ways to show your support? Click here to make a gift.