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Kari Michelson, a United Way volunteer, helps collect school supplies as part of the Stuff the Bus event Friday. The United Way of West Central Minnesota has been collecting donated school supplies since July to be distributed to families in need. The drive wrapped up with the actual "Stuff the Bus" event Friday at the Dairy Queen on First Street in Willmar. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

United Way's Stuff the Bus collects school supplies for west central Minn.families

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United Way's Stuff the Bus collects school supplies for west central Minn.families
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- As families gear up for the start of another school year, the local community and the United Way of West Central Minnesota are trying to make sure every child has the school supplies necessary to make the grade.


Since the beginning of July, the United Way has been collecting donations of school supplies at various businesses and drop-off locations in west central Minnesota as part of its Stuff the Bus campaign. On Friday, the United Way parked a bus at the Dairy Queen in Willmar for two hours to collect donations from the general public. The United Way then picked up supplies donated at drop-off bins at local businesses and churches in Kandiyohi, Meeker, Renville, Swift and Chippewa counties.

Last year, the United Way's Stuff the Bus campaign collected around 6,000 school supplies -- about $8,000 worth of items -- and though final tallies for this year have not been counted yet, United Way staff expect they received more donations this year, said Sara Bos, resource development director at United Way of West Central Minnesota.

"I'm guessing we'll beat our 6,000-item mark from last year," Bos said on Friday. "We had 10 new businesses participating this year, which was great."

The United Way Stuff the Bus campaign asked people to donate basic school supplies, such as pencils, notebooks, folders, binders, calculators, highlighters and backpacks. In addition to school supplies, the United Way also collected personal hygiene items and accepted cash donations.

All of the items will now be distributed among eight school districts in the west central Minnesota region, Bos said. The supplies go to families who need help affording the basics required for school.

This is the fifth year that United Way has done the Stuff the Bus event, and each year it continues to grow, Bos said.

"We just want to thank the community for their generosity," she said. "It's neat to see people step up like this and help out the community. It really does make a difference in the long term for these kids."

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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