Retailers are catching up with the desires of donors and have been planning ahead for the eighth annual Stuff the Bus school supplies drive, which United Way of Hernando County will launch Friday.
"We've noticed that a lot of community members look forward to this event, taking advantage of sales and stockpiling supplies (in advance)," said Angie Bonfardino, United Way interim executive director.
Pharmacies, office supply outlets, craft shops, supermarkets and big-box stores over the past few weeks have hyped cents-off sales on markers, folders, index cards, notebook paper and the like.
As of last week, 159 teachers in Hernando district schools and one private school had submitted their wish lists of supplies for students, who will return to classrooms Aug. 18.
The school district provides textbooks. Students' families are expected to provide most everything else. Often, teachers dip into their own pockets to provide supplies for kids from families that can't afford them. Thus, campaigns such as Stuff the Bus ease the financial burdens of parents, guardians and teachers alike.
Teachers listed their wishes this year for, among other things, 1,426 composition books, 1,024 three-prong folders, 992 glue sticks, 492 pairs of scissors, 318 packs of mechanical pencils, 883 packs of colored pencils and 856 boxes of crayons.
For donors who prefer not to shop, gift cards are welcome.
"Our community is very generous when it comes to monetary gifts as well," Bonfardino said. "We don't touch that money until we've used all the items we received, filling all teacher wish lists. We shop economically for what we didn't get, what we're short of."
Last year, for instance, gift cards were used to purchase adult-sized scissors for high school students and dollar-priced dictionaries and thesauruses.
The drive runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday at 11 locations across the county, with yellow school buses staffed by teachers who submitted wish lists along with volunteers from United Way member agencies. The school district provides the buses; district drivers volunteer their services.
As a new incentive, every teacher who volunteers to staff a bus will receive a stuffed backpack to give to a needy student.
Along with donors who have been stockpiling supplies, the Greater Hernando Chamber of Commerce last week gave a kick-start to the drive with those attending the chamber's monthly breakfast meeting contributing student supplies.
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]