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Volunteers 'stuff the bus' to help area school kids

Courtney Schmidt, of New London, moves boxes of donated school supplies Friday during the annual "Stuff the Bus" campaign organized by the United Way of West Central Minnesota. The items will be distributed to area students who are unable to purchase school supplies. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)1 / 2
Jacob Streed, 4, of Willmar, carries donated school items onto a bus Friday in Willmar for "Stuff the Bus," while under the watchful eye of elder brother Kaden, back. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)2 / 2

WILLMAR -- A community effort to make sure children have supplies before they head off to school next month culminated Friday when donations were accepted during the annual "Stuff the Bus" campaign sponsored by the United Way of West Central Minnesota.

Notebooks, crayons, pencils, scissors and glue were just some of the items that people carried to a small yellow school bus at the Dairy Queen on First Street in Willmar.

"We've had an awesome turnout," said Bobbi Wyss, resource development officer for United Way, as she watched vehicles pull into the parking lot and people carry bags of supplies to the bus.

One man rolled down his window and passed a $5 bill to volunteers.

"I know how important a right start to school is," said Nancy Hafner, as she handed off a stack of notebooks and other supplies she donated. Her daughter, Jenna Hafner, coordinated the "Stuff the Bus" effort as part of her internship with United Way.

Wendy Streed, of Willmar, had her two young sons, Jacob, 4, and Kaden, 6, carry numerous bags of donated items into the bus. As a mother of five sons, Streed said it's "always nice when someone can help out others."

After spending two hours in the DQ parking lot, the bus was driven to businesses in the county that collected items from employees and customers.

On Monday, representatives from the Willmar, New London-Spicer, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, MACCRAY and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg school districts will pick up the items that will be distributed later to students.

Supplies will be divided among the districts based on student population and need, said Stacey Roberts, executive director of United Way.

Separate campaigns will provide supplies to children in the BOLD, Benson, Brooten-Belgrade-Elrosa, Litchfield and Renville County West school districts.

Families who have needs and are unable to purchase supplies for their children should contact their school's child guide, social worker or teacher during school open houses.

Wyss said their office has received more calls than ever from families seeking assistance. "There definitely is a need this year," she said.

Donations are still being accepted and can be brought to the Northern Grounds during business hours today or to Roosevelt Elementary School in Willmar at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750