BROOKSVILLE — Thanks to a generous community, Hernando County teachers will have more reasons to smile when schools reopen later this month.
The fourth annual Stuff the Bus campaign last weekend garnered more donations of school supplies and money to buy additional classroom items than all previous years, said Kathy Jones, executive director of United Way of Hernando County, the project sponsor.
Contributed supplies were too numerous to count, and attempting to put a dollar value on them would be unwieldy, she said. But filed requests for specific items from 180 teachers in the Hernando School District and several private schools were met and then some, Jones reported.
"There were some really nice surprises," she added, noting receipt of a check for $500 and a gift certificate for $350.
United Way shoppers bought so much at the Dollar Tree, which offered a discount, the goods had to be loaded into a pickup by a forklift.
A request for headphones for hard-of-hearing students elicited 87 sets. "An elementary teacher wanted 200 spiral notebooks and we got them," Jones said.
Three middle school teachers asked for 60, 40 and 30 composition books, respectively. "We got more than that," Jones noted. "So, you know kids are going to do some journaling."
A request for reference materials brought in about 140 each of paperback dictionaries and thesauruses. The latter will boost essay writing required in Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, Jones suggested, "so they can use $10 words."
"A lot of supplies are not just going to schools," she pointed out.
After the teacher stock desires were filled, more learning materials were packed for distribution to youngsters at the Dawn Center, New Beginnings, children served by Catholic Charities, the school district's Student Services program that helps provide for homeless and especially needy students, and Project Backpack, a nonprofit community outreach endeavor with a student aid mission.
"We want to share throughout every place," Jones said, but emphasized, "Our biggest mission was to help teachers because they help the kids."
She added, "This is the first year people gave food. We'll help food pantries with that." Included were canned goods, cereals and dry pastas.
Volunteers numbering about 300, including about 200 teachers, staffed the buses at various locations around the county during the three-day drive. They worked in the summer heat, sorting, loading and packing boxes. Chief among the packers were employees of Bank of America and Girl Scouts.
"We are exhausted here," Jones said, adding, "It's a good pain."
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.