By Hannah Lester
The United Way of Lee County’s annual ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign drive will begin distributing materials at the end of the week.
The goal is to provide school supplies and materials to children and families in need.
“It is a really rewarding initiative,” said Chandler Williams, community initiative coordinator for the United Way of Lee County. “It’s fun to see an empty boardroom fill up with lots of supplies.”
Local businesses in the area donate supplies along with individuals who want to help out. There is an amazon link (https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2WZP90KHS4TRX/ref=hz_ls_biz_ex?fbclid=IwAR25P4Vl8-EqtuOJpULVgFAX4JvSZnAD9MLAj-BXtoY3cDyfVlGoCz4AOGc) with all types of items, from ziplock bags to sharpies.
There were also several drop-off locations, which have now been picked up to prepare for this week’s distribution to families. People can still donate by coming directly to the United Way of Lee County building or by using the Amazon wishlist, Williams said.
Publix offers an annual camping each year called Tools for School and the donations are given to the United Way of Lee County, she said.
“At the register you can donate toward ‘Tools for School’ and then they will in turn give that to Stuff the bus, so we get a huge amount of school supplies from Publix each year as well,” Williams said.
Publix will continue offering this through the middle of August, she said.
Families were able to apply with the United Way of Lee County through their school system (Auburn, Opelika or Lee County) to register for school supplies.
Although the registration deadline has passed, Williams said not to worry, there are still ways to receive help.
Distribution will take place Friday but donations are still welcome. Any leftover materials will be given directly to the schools, she said.
“Even though applications have closed, we would encourage anyone who’s like ‘oh my gosh I missed it’, to reach out to their school counselor or their school and just let them know that they’re needing supplies,” Williams said.
Despite the pandemic, donations have been steadily coming in.
“We had less drop off locations, but the ones that we had had tons of supplies which is not always the case,” she said. “Then we have gotten a lot of things through the Amazon wishlist as well. Then the Publix supplies were a little bit more than they even normally are. I’ve been happily surprised.”
This year, many of the families who will receive donations, have been hit hard by the coronavirus, Williams said.
“We want kids to be able to go back to school in whatever form that may look like, feeling confident, feeling like they have the tools that they need to succeed,” she said.