This year’s ninth annual Stuff the Bus was our most successful ever. On July 23-24, more than 70 United Way volunteers came together and assembled 1,300 backpacks for distribution throughout the county, a 30% increase over the prior year. In addition to our event partners, Publix, Sumner County Schools, the Hendersonville, Gallatin, Portland & White House Chambers, Westmoreland Public Library, and COMPASS, our efforts were boosted by the efforts of 25 local businesses, First United Methodist Church in Hendersonville, and the Hendersonville Evening Rotary Club, which collected enough school supplies from customers, employees, members, and supporters to fill a 19-foot U-Haul truck. This year’s collections far exceeded any year in the nine-year history of this event. We also received just over $5,000 in monetary donations, which covered the purchase of our backpacks and event costs including truck rental, mileage, and pizza for our volunteers. In fact, for the first time in several years, Stuff the Bus broke even financially without support from our general fund. Just to give you an example of the scale of support we received, here are a few statistics of things that were included in the backpacks we distributed: 4,000 packs of notebook paper, 5,000 spiral notebooks, 5,000 vinyl pocket folders, 64,000 pencils, 10,000 ink pens, 1,750 bottles of Elmer's Glue, more than 1,000 glue sticks, 3,000 boxes of crayons, 1,400 sets of colored pencils, 1,200 composition books, 300 pencil boxes, 1,300 block erasers, and much more.
Finally, Stuff the Bus would have no impact on the community without our amazing partners who take the filled backpacks and get them into the hands of those who will benefit from them. Thank you to all of our partner agencies and other organizations who distributed the following backpacks: 425 to the Society of St. Vincent DePaul help center in Gallatin, 300 to the Gallatin Back to School Rally at Shafer Middle School; 123 to the School District’s Family Resource Center, 120 to the School District’s McKinney Vento program that serves students classified as homeless, 100 to the Hendersonville Samaritan Association, 100 to Portland CARES, 40 to Children Are People, 40 to Hendersonville’s S’mores Elementary Summer Reading Program, 12 to Sumner County CASA, and 12 to the Grace Place shelter. Additionally, we provided supplies to the Portland Chamber for the 1,000 backpacks it distributed at the annual Back-to-School bash on July 27 at Richland Park. In all, Stuff the Bus played a role in providing backpacks and school supplies to 2,300 students in 2019, which is approximately 7 percent of the Sumner County Schools student population.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this major community impact event that will make a difference in the lives of local students, and a special Thank You to our two biggest partners: Mike Shelton and the Sumner County Schools Family Resource Center for providing us a place to house Stuff the Bus, and Publix Super Markets and its Tools for Schools program that provides more than 90 percent of the school supplies we used to fill backpacks this year. Finally, thank you to Jet's Pizza in Gallatin for working with us to feed this year's hardworking volunteers! The success of this year's Stuff the Bus truly shows us the great things that happen when a community comes together with a common purpose. CHANGE DOESN'T HAPPEN ALONE!