Underserved school children picked up over 2,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies at United Way’s annual Stuff the Bus event on Aug. 11 in the Hollister Target parking lot.
Kindergarteners to high school seniors picked out their own backpacks. Each pack contained supplies necessary for their grade level. United Way had over 200 volunteers attend and help with stuffing supplies into backpacks.
United Way's Mary Damm was co-chair of Stuff the Bus Event, along with Susie Zgragen. Damm has been involved in the event since it began in 2014. She was at the Target parking lot Saturday morning directing volunteers and answering questions from families unfamiliar with the flow of the event. She expressed her appreciation to everyone involved, from the feet on the ground to the sponsors. What was important to her, she said, was ensuring all kids get what they need for school.
San Benito County Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto said the event is about equality, about every child having a chance.
“To get backpacks into the kids’ hands that are filled with all the supplies they need, it allows every kid to start school equatable,” Lomanto said.
Many parents expressed gratitude to everyone involved in getting their children the necessary supplies.
Fredo Fontanez, father of three young boys, said, “It is not the backpack that is the most important, but the supplies that are in there.” Each of Fontanez’s sons showed BenitoLink their backpack contents such as pencils, notebooks, and markers. They seemed delighted with their gift and excited about the upcoming school year.
Another group beyond event organizer United Way was the Hollister Rotary Club, which provided free hot dogs for all in attendance.
Several organizations including Teknova, Earthbound Farms, Target and private individuals sponsored the event. For a full list of sponsors, contact United Way or the Community Foundation for San Benito County. Volunteers from several scout troops were on hand helping out as members of 4-H.
“The other great thing about this event is the community,” Lomanto said. “You can see hundreds of volunteers. It is the entire community rallied around education. If you have a healthy educational system you have a healthy community.”
Leftover backpacks are at the San Benito County Office of Education in Hollister. Children in need of packs and supplies can get them through their individual schools.
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