The Labette County Emergency Assistance Center is once again asking for the public’s support to Stuff the Bus with donations of cash and school supplies.

Annually, the event helps provide school supplies for students in need who are attending any school in Labette County, providing a good foundation for the start of the educational year.

Costs of enrollment fees, textbook fees and uniforms, in addition to school clothes and shoes, can take a toll on families with limited incomes. 

Given the rising cost of living, some parents with low incomes cannot even afford those things, much less school supplies for one or more children.

“For some of them, that puts them reliant on the food pantry or short in utility money,” emergency assistance center coordinator Lee Ann Spencer said.

Stuff the Bus has helped to financially ease that transition back into school each year.

The kickoff event will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 13 at Dollar Tree and Walgreens in Parsons.

As Parsons USD 503’s buses will not arrive until August, Labette County USD 506 has agreed to donate the use of two buses for the event.

Basic school supplies sought are backpacks for students of all ages; binders; pocket folders; loose-leaf paper; blue, black and red ink pens; No. 2 pencils; markers; highlighters; erasers; 3-inch by 5-inch index cards; rulers; calculators; crayons; colored pencils; glue sticks; and facial tissues.

Communities In Schools and the emergency assistance center will set up donation boxes around town ahead of the event for those who cannot donate items on Stuff the Bus day.

Monetary donations to help fill the gaps for supplies not received can be sent to Labette County Emergency Assistance Center, P.O. Box 271, Parsons, KS 67357, with “school supplies” written in the memo line.

“We already have a little bit of funding set aside from the Salvation Army bell ringing. We knew we would possibly have a little shortfall this year. Last year, I had an opportunity to get a Kansas Health Foundation grant from a symposium I attended. That was a one-time-ever thing. I was going to the symposium, and they let all of us sign up for a project and mine was school supplies. We were given $2,000, and it was presented by Steve Hartman (broadcast journalist),” Spencer said.

Even with the grant and donations, it was not enough to meet all the need.

“We go as far as we can,” Spencer said. “Last year we spent over $3,000, with the grant we had in addition to community donations, and then we had the physical supplies donated, too. It was very supported by the communities.”

Some churches also help provide school supplies to children who attend their church. Some others collect supplies and donate them to the LCEAC or directly to the schools.

“Anything we can’t help with is going to fall on a teacher. The teachers are not going to let their students go without,” Spencer said.

Teachers know helping students get off to a good start in the school year is important, as for some it can set the tone for the entire year.

Even helping students here and there adds up when combined with classroom resources. On average, public school teachers spend about $500 a year on students. To get other needed items for their classrooms or for special projects, teachers are seeking support through grants from places like Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) and Lowe’s Toolbox For Education (https://toolboxforeducation.com).

Once the Stuff the Bus supplies are collected, they are divided and distributed to the schools around the first of August to dispense to students on an announced date before the start of school.

“It grew to such a level, we just take them directly to the schools because they know their students and they already know their financial situation typically from the previous year. It’s a little bit more work for them, but there is just no way we could have that many appointments, and people would have to drive here to get the supplies,” Spencer said. “We started going to the schools and it has worked pretty well. They never complain. There’s been shorter years and longer years where we are able to provide more, and they just help as many kids as they can with them.”

Volunteers are needed to man the buses for an hour or so each at a time at the kickoff event and also to deliver supplies to the schools around the first week of August after the overall collection drive has ended.

Those who would like to volunteer or who have questions can contact the LCEAC school supply manager, Bianca Taylor, at 421-0700.

“Our community has been great, and we are hoping with the seed money from the Salvation Army, we have a really good start,” Spencer said.

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