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'Stuff the Bus' with school supplies to help Hernando teachers

Gina Wharton, United Way executive board secretary, left, and Matt Duncan, a United Way board member, organize school supplies donated at last year’s Stuff the Bus event. The event is designed to bring in supplies to help teachers equip their classrooms and students.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2009)

Gina Wharton, United Way executive board secretary, left, and Matt Duncan, a United Way board member, organize school supplies donated at last year’s Stuff the Bus event. The event is designed to bring in supplies to help teachers equip their classrooms and students.

Many retirees will probably recall their first day of school, when they were handed a No. 2 pencil and a lined-paper tablet — for free.

Pencils were replaced several times yearly; paper as needed.

That's no longer the case.

Teachers in the Hernando County School District are supplied with a specific amount of money, calculated by the district, to equip their classrooms and students, said assistant superintendent Sonya Jackson. The amount depends on the grade level and subject. For instance, a high school chemistry class will require more supplies than an elementary reading class.

"Teachers purchase items for kids" from their budgetary allotments, Jackson said. "A lot of teachers do it on their own," she added, meaning teachers dip into their own pockets to buy supplies.

For the fourth year, the United Way of Hernando County is stepping up to fill the gaps with a community outreach effort called Stuff the Bus on Friday, Saturday and Aug. 1. School buses will be parked at nine sites — up from five in previous years — where residents can donate such items as notebook paper, report folders, crayons, dry board markers, composition books, test tubes and "anything you can imagine a classroom needs," said United Way executive director Kathy Jones.

This year, 180 teachers have forwarded specific requests of their needs, up from last year, Jones said.

Also being solicited are gift cards and cash to purchase unfulfilled and unique requests. In past years, for example, such donations bought a world globe, dictionaries and bean bag seats to furnish a reading corner in an elementary classroom.

"We've gotten pretty good at finding stores that give discounts," Jones said.

Jones was not able to provide a dollar amount of school supplies delivered by the community in the past, but said last year's stash filled the United Way office to the point that negotiating a path through the stacks was problematic.

Supplies that exceeded teacher requests were bagged and boxed, and given to the Dawn Center, the New Beginnings Youth Shelter, Catholic Charities, HEART Literacy and the school district's student services department for homeless and other needy children.

The community outpouring has elicited praise and thanks from the United Way and the school district. And Jones said bags of supplies sometimes contained handwritten notes from the givers, thanking teachers for what they do in the classroom.

The widower of a former teacher tucked into a bus a $300 check in her memory.

"It's nice to know there are so many people that support teachers," Jones said. "It's very, very heartwarming."

Beth Gray can be reached at

"Teachers purchase items for kids" from their budgetary allotments. "A lot of teachers do it on their own," meaning teachers dip into their own pockets to buy supplies.

Sonya Jackson, assistant superintendent

Where to donate

Help Stuff the Bus with school supplies

WHAT: Stuff the Bus, an effort to solicit donations of classroom and student supplies for public and private schools in Hernando County

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Aug. 1

WHERE: School buses accepting supplies will be parked at:

• Publix at Seven Hills, 160 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill

• Publix at Barclay Square, 14371 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill

• Publix at Glen Lakes, 9595 Commercial Way, north of Weeki Wachee

• Publix at Avalon, 13445 County Line Road, Spring Hill

• Publix at Brooksville Square, 19390 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville

• Walmart Supercenter, 1485 Commercial Way, Spring Hill

• Walmart Supercenter, 13300 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill

• Walmart Supercenter, 7305 Broad St., Brooksville

• Staples, 4210 Commercial Way, Spring Hill

Drop boxes are situated at all county Walgreens drugstores, at Regions Banks and at Evergreen Woods, 7045 Evergreen Woods Trail, Spring Hill.

A complete list of requests is available on the Web at; click underneath the home page's rocking bus.

'Stuff the Bus' with school supplies to help Hernando teachers 07/24/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 24, 2010 12:34pm]
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