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Stuff the Bus

Volunteers work Wednesday to organize school supplies for the Stuff the Bus program.

MARSHALL — It’s been a year with a lot of uncertainties — but even in the face of a pandemic, area community members still came together to help kids get needed school supplies.

Organizers of the 2020 Stuff the Bus school supply drive said more than 52,000 items were distributed to area schools this week. The supplies will help almost 3,800 K-12 students at 23 schools in the United Way of Southwest Minnesota’s service area.

“We feel that’s fantastic,” said Sarah Kicmal, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Minnesota. Although COVID-19 has changed a lot of plans for schools this year, Kicmal said she knew community members and organizations were still showing strong support for their local schools.

“We live in such a great area where everyone is so supportive and willing to give back,” Kicmal said.

“Stuff the Bus is the perfect example of communities coming together. We had collection containers and volunteers throughout our entire service area,” said Shelby Otto, community engagement and education coordinator. “This wouldn’t be possible without support from the communities we serve. The willingness to help amazes me every year.”

Supplies, ranging from crayons and boxes of tissues to thousands of folders, were distributed to area schools on Wednesday. Kicmal said some of the supply lists had changed this year because of COVID-19. Organizers made sure to include supplies like hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. For the second year in a row, supplies also included headphones. “Technology is more prevalent in our schools,” she said, and now many students also have to be ready for distance learning.

Staff at area schools help make sure the supplies collected through Stuff the Bus get to students who need some extra support, organizers said. Families in need of supplies should contact their school.

“As a former teacher, and a teacher returning to the classroom this fall, I’ve seen the impact that Stuff the Bus makes and I’m grateful to have been able to organize and implement it for the last two years,” Otto said. “Thank you to everyone that helps with this initiative. Because of you, students are able to focus on what really matters at school, instead of worrying if they have the right supplies in their desks.”

Contributions to the Stuff the Bus initiative came from community organizations, churches, businesses and employee groups who collected monetary donations and supplies. Area volunteers also helped to sort and distribute supplies.

Donations for Stuff the Bus are accepted year-round, and help United Way of Southwest Minnesota buy needed supplies in bulk at a low cost. More information is available online at unitedwayswmn.org.

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