By Hannah Eckstein
Stuffing a child’s backpack with back to school supplies can get expensive. Fortunately Stuff the Bus is here to help.
Stuff the Bus is a school-supply drive, organized by the United Way of Monmouth County. Serving schools across Monmouth County, including Red Bank and Long Branch, Stuff the Bus provides school supplies to students, and teachers who don’t have enough room in their budgets for extra supplies.
While items like pencils, crayons and markers may seem like nominal expenses to some, the costs add up.
“We definitely serve thousands of students,” said Kaarina Romero, volunteer center manager at United Way of Monmouth County. The drive “is extremely vital. Each year the number of requests for items increased. This helps because it helps kids … and relieves families and teachers of the burden of buying school supplies they can’t afford.”
According to a study done by Deloitte, the average family will spend $370 per child on back to school shopping, including things like school supplies, backpacks, and clothing.
When parents can’t afford these types of expenses, the teachers are often the ones left covering the costs. According to a recent survey, teachers spend an average of $400 a year out of pocket on classroom expenses. With the cost of school supplies on the rise, Stuff the Bus goes a long way for both students and teachers.
The drive begins each August, when United Way of Monmouth County receives a list of the most needed school supplies from each school.
“There is always a great need for backpacks, because they are the most expensive,” Romero said.
In addition to backpacks, colored pencils, crayons, washable markers and glue sticks are popular items on the list.
Once the organization receives the list, they begin collecting school supplies and donations through two separate sources.
First, the organization holds weekly events at area Targets and Walmarts. Volunteers stand outside of the stores with lists of schools supplies and hand them out to shoppers as they enter the stores.
“I am always amazed at the response we get from shoppers,” Romero said. “So many people are so generous, and willing to give.”
In addition to these drives, Stuff the Bus receives donations from 30 corporate partners, including big names like AIG, Fulton Bank of NJ, Nestle and Plymouth Rock.
Once all of the supplies have been collected, they are sent to a warehouse, donated to the United Way of Monmouth County by the American Red Cross. There, volunteers organize the supplies and prepare them to be sent to local schools. The drive concludes at the end of August, once all of the supplies have been organized and prepared for the upcoming school year.
Last year’s drive was a huge success: Stuff the Bus donated more than 27,500 items to local schools. This year, teachers and schools have requested the donation of more than 92,000.
The organization hopes to have as great a response from the community during its 2014 drive, helping to ensure that students and teachers across the state are prepared for class.
The United Way of Monmouth County will begin delivering supplies during the week of Aug. 24 to schools that forwarded the requests for items.
Volunteers for Stuff the Bus will be on hand at the 2331 Route 66 Target store in Ocean Township from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16. Those who wish to drop off items may do so there or may shop from the list being handed out that day.
Those who want to make donations also may contact Romero at 848-206-2042 or email@example.com.