"Stuff the Bus" offers school supplies to struggling families


Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

SALINE COUNTY, Ill. - It feels like school just let out for summer, but it is already time for parents to start checking off items on next fall's school supply list.

It seems every year the list of supplies gets longer as our school districts struggle to make ends meet, putting the financial stress on families.

The Saline County Chamber of Commerce and the United way of Southern Illinois have teamed up to put a dent in some of this school shopping by participating in a nationwide event called "stuff the Bus".

Saline County Chamber of Commerce president Angela Rowe knows the need is great in her community.

"The students that maybe don't have the supplies that they need and the teacher that buy things out of their own pocket," said Rowe.

But Toni Hayden with the United Way says that people do not realize how real the financial struggle in the area is.

More than 60-percent of children in Southern Illinois come from low-income homes, and that can take the excitement out of the first day of school.

"The inability to buy school supplies should not be an obstacle for a child's success," said Hayden.

Each year the supply list becomes a little longer, and a little more expensive.

"I know as my son has progressed through school they would ask for more and more every year for the parents to supply," said Rowe.

And gone are the days of showing up on the first day with a couple pens and a back-pack.

Now teachers are looking for things that you might find unopened in your own kitchen like hand sanitizer, sandwich bags...even oatmeal is on the list.

Hayden says a little bit goes a long way.

"It's about that one little notebook or school item that really can boost the confidence of a child," said Hayden.

She says getting children ready to go back to school should be a community effort during these financially challenging times.

Here are a few more of the locations in Saline County that have boxes set up: all Dollar General stores in Saline County, all Peoples National Bank locations, The Bank of Marion, All-In-One Real Estate and CURLEQ Salon.

Paducah is also participating in the "stuff the Bus" event.

You can help load up the bus with school supplies at both Wal-Mart locations on Saturday July 20 from 10am to 1pm.