The generosity of San Diegans was once again on display as a record-number of supplies and donations were gathered during the fifth annual Stuff the Bus school supplies drive, which helps to ensure that thousands of students experiencing homelessness have the school supplies they need to start the school year off right.
Nearly 270,000 school supplies valued at close to $330,000 were donated by individuals throughout San Diego County in the four-week Stuff the Bus campaign, coordinated by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU), to benefit students experiencing homelessness. More than 22,000 school-age children were identified as homeless during the 2017-18 school year.
“The San Diego community continues to raise the bar when helping students who are in need,” said Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego County superintendent of schools. “As a father and an educator, I know how important it is for students to be able to start a new school year with a backpack full of supplies. Being ready to learn lays the foundation for a bright future for these children.”
This year, Stuff the Bus filled the requests of 33 school districts, 20 charter schools, and two homeless youth drop-in centers. Homelessness affects students from all across San Diego County, and for school-age children, can mean living in a shelter, living in a car or trailer, or sharing a residence with other families. Young people who leave school without a diploma or equivalent are 4 1/2 times more likely to experience homelessness as a young adult. Providing them with backpacks full of supplies is just one way the community can help them to stay in school.
“We are so grateful to the community for coming together to support this initiative and want to thank all of the donors for their incredible generosity,” said SDCCU President and CEO Teresa Campbell. “We continue to collect more supplies and donations each year, which allows us to reach our goal of helping even more students across the county.”
Stuff the Bus included an online component, collection bins at SDCOE, SDCCU, and select Mathnasium sites, iHeartRadio promotions at several local Walmart stores, and the appearance of two brightly decorated school buses at various locations collecting donations. Personalities from iHeartRadio stations Channel 93.3, Star 94.1, and JAM’N 95.7 also hosted programming at several Walmart stops.
Local news outlets and organizations also provided time and resources to help the effort. NBC 7 San Diego hosted a day-long Supporting our Schools drive in which more than 4,500 schools supplies and $15,000 were donated by San Diegans. Passion Planners donated more than 3,000 planners, and luxury bag maker Vessel donated 6,000 backpacks.
The massive task of sorting the hundreds of thousands of supplies and stuffing backpacks with grade-appropriate materials was covered by volunteers and employees from SDCOE and SDCCU.
“San Diego is such a generous community,” said Susie Terry, SDCOE’s coordinator for homeless education services. “Not only do our friends and neighbors take the time to buy supplies or make monetary donations, they also give their time, sorting through the hundreds of thousands of school supplies and filling backpacks, all to make sure the most vulnerable children in our community can start the school year right.”
By the Numbers
Estimated supplies collected in the 2019 Stuff the Bus drive include:
13,824 Packs of paper/notebooks
6,903 Glue sticks
12,904 Mechanical pencils
6,891 Pencil sharpeners
6,452 Subject folders
3,746 Passion Planners
3,226 Packs of color pencils
3,653 Pencil pouches
3,649 Index cards