Business / Economy

Stuff the Bus Gets 683 Kids Ready to Learn

United Way's Second Annual "Stuff the Bus" in partnership with the County Office of Education, collects filled backpacks for elementary school kids.

United Way’s commitment to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life is the motivation behind the 2014 Stuff the Bus school supply collection project. The second annual event, in partnership with the County Office of Education, proved to be a huge success this past Saturday. Through the generosity of local donations, volunteers filled 683 backpacks that were distributed to elementary schools throughout San Benito County.  

“Last year we had only a two week window to collect supplies so backpacks were sent to just one school district," said Stuff the Bus event chair, Diane Barr. "This year we (United Way) have been collecting donations since July 1 and the result was fantastic! Packs were given to all 11 of the elementary school districts served by the San Benito County Office of Education. The community really came through for our youth."

Aromas/San Juan, Bitterwater-Tully, Cienega, Hollister, Jefferson, North County (Spring Grove), Panoche, Southside, Tres Pinos, and Willow Grove school districts were allotted some of the 683 backpacks. Each district determined their neediest students.

Locals were asked to either donate from a school approved list of supplies or by purchasing a backpack pre-filled with supplies. Donations of supplies were collected at the United Way office, and at Enterprise Martial Arts, Rabobank, Round Table Pizza, Target Store, Union Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, and the YMCA.

According to United Way Coordinator, Vicki Fortino, “This year we set our goal at 500 backpacks filled with supplies. Through the generosity of our sponsors, civic groups and community members, we were able to exceed our goal. The community embraced this United Way initiative, and as a result 683 children will begin school ready to succeed.” 

The Platinum sponsors who donated 40 packs filled with supplies were Go Kids, Inc., and RMC Engineering. Gold sponsors, Pacific Scientific, Raegan and Seth Twisselman, and State Senator Anthony Cannella covered the cost of 20 packs each. Silver sponsorships for 10 backpacks each were Brent Redmond Transportation, Deborah Harter/Platinum Real Estate, Diane and Larry Barr, Granite Rock, Hollister Collision Center, Hollister Rotary, Jim Fosdick/State Farm Insurance, Kunz/Ferreira Real Estate Teams, Rabobank, Wells Fargo Bank, and Wells Fargo Mortgage. The Bronze sponsors donating costs to cover four backpacks were Calera Wine Company, Cal Vista Insurance, Hogue Brothers Collision Center, Janice Wagy, Jeannette Campbell, Karen Fink/ReMax Reality, Richard W. Shelton Insurance, Marketing, Inc., and Tiffany Motor Company.

"The generosity of these sponsors has a direct impact on the immediate needs of children in our county," United Way officials said in a release.

For the culmination of the event, volunteers gathered in the Target parking lot on the morning of August 9 with a county school bus that they filled with backpacks. “United Way is most grateful for the volunteers. This year we had more packs to fill, but we also had more helpers so we finished quite quickly” said Mary Damm, United Way board president.


United Way Board Members Dee Hone, Diane Barr, Jeanette Campbell, Julie Gianotta, Mary Damm, Sylvia Jaime, Janice Wagy, and coordinator, Vicki Fortino were assisted by many others. From Enterprise Martial Arts were Nicole Gonzalez, Mateo Gonzalez, Emelia Gonzalez, Mark Preade, Christine Martinez, Roger Martinez, and Adrian Martinez.  From Hollister Rotary were President Robert Frieri and Rotarians Brian Yamaoko, Krystal Lomanto, Gary McIntire, Jim Fosdick, and Larry Barr.  Pacific Scientific employees Allyson Creech, Barbie Dennis, Lynda Munoz, and Richard Munoz were on hand as well.  From Wells Fargo Bank were Manager, Alicia Llanes, joined by Priscilla Ameguin, Nicole Douglas, and Matthew Llanes.  High school students earning community service hours were Mathias Ito, Erica Leung, and Tori Yamaoka. Other helpers were Lori Arnold, CASA of San Benito County; Dawson Garcia, San Benito High’s Boy’s Water Polo; Patsy Pence, Advocacy, Inc.; and Kathy Petree who heard about the event on TV. Helen and Leila Swanson organized the bus’s contents.


Donations for the Stuff the Bus are still being accepted. Contact Vicki Fortino at [email protected] or visit


United Way