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 San Diego Stuffs the Bus With 250,000 School Supplies

Nearly 5,000 backpacks, 250,000 school supplies distributed to students experiencing homelessness

STB cropped Monarch 2 - 08-12-16.jpg

Thousands of San Diego County students experiencing homelessness are heading back to school this fall ready to learn thanks to an over-the-top school supplies drive conducted by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU).

Tens of thousands of new school supplies collected over the six-week Stuff the Bus campaign have been distributed to 34 school districts and 15 charter schools throughout San Diego County. Eighty percent of the school districts that requested supplies had their need met in full. In the 2015 school supplies drive, only 45 percent of districts had their request met in full. 

"The quality and quantity of supplies far exceeded our expectations," said Susie Terry, project specialist with SDCOE's homeless education services. "We were able to assist more students who are experiencing homelessness than ever before."

Added Michelle Lustig, SDCOE's manager of foster youth and homeless education services: "The response to this effort was truly extraordinary this year, leading to unprecedented results."

"SDCCU Stuff the Bus received an incredible amount of support from the community this year, collecting a record number of supplies for students in the region experiencing homelessness. It was so wonderful to see the community come together to support this effort," said Teresa Halleck, SDCCU president and CEO. "We thank everyone who donated to help provide these students with basic supplies to help better prepare them to succeed in the classroom."

Lustig, Terry, program aide Kymm Wolfe, and employees from SDCCU and Carlsbad-based Vessel bags spent countless hours over several days at Monarch School sorting backpacks, packs of pencils and paper, rulers, and more, and packing them for delivery to districts by SDCOE's truck mail team. Reesa Fickett of SDCOE's Integrated Technology Services also took a volunteer packing shift.

The six-week campaign included an online component, collection bins at SDCOE and SDCCU sites, iHeartRadio promotions at three local Walmart stores, and the signature feature -- two wrapped school buses roaming the county collecting donations.

Personalities from iHeartRadio radio stations Channel 93.3, Star 94.1, and JAM'N 95.7 hosted sets at several Walmart stops, enthusiastically promoting the drive and interviewing experts like Vista Unified's homeless services liaison Michelle Walsh and partner donors.

"The entire crew at iHeartRadio San Diego were thrilled to be part of the Stuff the Bus campaign," said John Peake, iHeartRadio senior vice president of programming for the San Diego-Riverside Region. "San Diegans are a generous group and our listeners showed up with their arms full of school supplies to donate. I hope that our efforts helped make a difference for some of San Diego's 23,000 homeless students."

The Stuff the Bus campaign also raised nearly $12,000 online, $9,000 through in-branch donations, and $2,700 at SDCCU's Super Shred Event. Luxury bag maker Vessel stepped forward after hearing about Stuff the Bus on the radio, donating 1,000 new backpacks.

"Vessel is proud to be a last-minute partner," said Stephanie Beyer, marketing manger of Vessel Bags. "After spending some time volunteering to pack the backpacks and meeting all the staff involved, you can tell the passion and focus is all for the kids."

Additional major donors include Passion Planner, which donated 2,000 planners, and Coronado Distribution Co., which delivered $10,000 in supplies; and longtime SDCOE school supplies drive supporter Jolie Ludington, a 7-year-old from Rancho Penasquitos. Jolie was adopted, and she celebrates her adoption day with a party every year and asks guests to bring donations for a cause that she picks. When she was 4, Jolie was so eager to start school that she asked for school supplies, and the cause stuck. This year, Jolie and her friends and family collected more than $1,000 in supplies, including 40 backpacks, 50 packs of paper, 75 notebooks, 20 pencil boxes, 24 boxes of crayons, 20 boxes of markers, 20 boxes of colored pencils, 50 glue sticks/bottles of glue, 50 packs of pencils, 50 packs of pens, and 25 packages of highlighters, plus scissors, rulers, lunch boxes, and erasers.

2016 Stuff the Bus - By the Numbers
Just a sampling of the supplies collected in the 2016 Stuff the Bus drive
1,979      Binders
101,934  Crayons
5,689      Erasers
9,399      Glue Sticks
29,680    Markers
17,097    Packs of paper
1,855      Pencil pouches
35,634    Pencils
2,000      Planners

2016 STB Jolie supplies 2 - cropped.jpg Jolie Ludington and some of the many school supplies she donated.