Saturday, June 24, 2017 This Week's Paper

Stuff the Bus

// Tacoma brings in supplies for thousands of local students.

Despite a tough economy, Tacoma still cares about helping out its students.

In its seventh year of Community In Schools’ Tacoma school supply drive “Stuff The Bus,” organizers were thrilled that donations still came through strong.

“We knew we were going to be a little down from last year, because of the economy. A lot of our business partners have had to lay off employees. But they still came through for us and we were so grateful for all the donations, even in these hard times, they’re still giving. They want our kids to have the tools they need,” said Teresa Maxwell, executive director for Communities In Schools.

CIS staff and volunteers stopped by 22 local businesses on Aug. 18 to pick up the school supplies and backpacks each business had been collecting over the past several weeks.

The bus got fully stuffed, and Maxwell estimates that the campaign brought in roughly 2,300 backpacks that were filled with supplies, as well as surplus supplies that were not able to fit directly into the packs.

Last year, CIS distributed 2,400 backpacks to students in Tacoma, Franklin Pierce and Bethel school districts.

“We are thrilled with the amazing participation of our partners in this campaign,” said Chris Lucey, organizer for this year’s drive. “I will never forget how invested they were in helping provide for the needs of our students. Although some donations were larger than others, every single item makes a difference and every donor is appreciated.”

Local business partners for the drive included Tacoma Police Department, Tacoma Costco, Titus-Will Ford, 13 local branches of Columbia Bank, Rotary No. 8, Coldwell Banker Bain, Grace Community Church, Pacific Lutheran University, Simpson Investments, Living Word Christian Church, Metro Parks, local Starbucks workers, Fern Hill Business District, Johnson, Stone & Pagano P.S., eight Larson auto dealerships, Heritage Bank branches, St. Joseph Medical Center, TRA Imaging, BCRA, BNY Mellon, City of Tacoma, Connelly Law Offices, State Farm-Westgate, Fashion Bug, Temple Beth El, Better Homes and Gardens Realty/Pacific Commons, Toray Composites, Intel, Mason Methodist Church and Tacoma Rainiers. The Rainiers will be visiting Sheridan Elementary School on Aug. 31 to personally distribute 300 backpacks to students at the East Side School.

“We are leveling the playing field for all kids and making sure that all of our kids don’t miss the first day of school because they don’t have the proper tools. If every kid can walk in excited because they have a new backpack and all the tools that they need – they don’t feel left behind,” Maxwell said.

Backpacks and school supplies are distributed to staff at local elementary, middle and high schools. School principals and counselors then give the backpacks and supplies to the students who need it most at their schools before the first day of class.

Other surplus supplies are kept on hand at schools with higher free-and-reduced price lunch rates for new students who come in after the first day of school, or who need additional help throughout the year.

“The kids who have need of school supplies often have a number of unmet needs. When they come to school and try to come to work and fit in, it’s pretty tough if you don’t have the wherewithal to do it,” Lucey said. “If they have the school supplies it’s far easier for them to feel like they’re part of the class, participate in activities...having that backpack puts them on equal ground with everyone else, and gives them the best start they can.”