Stuff the Bus kicks off for 10th year

The last collection barrel for the Stuff the Bus school supply drive was put in place Monday to kick off the annual donation program.
About 14 collection sites are scattered throughout Catawba County for donors to give paper, pens and other school necessities to children in need of materials.
The Stuff the Bus drive and its donors has given school supplies for about 10 years.
“I think it’s just enabling a child to feel like they are ready to start the school year,” said Cheryl Abee, of the Catawba County United Way, which sponsors the program. “It’s especially nice for those children whose parents have lost their job and are going through a hard time. You don’t want a child to be left out.”
There are donation centers in Newton, Conover and Hickory, with the actual “Stuff the Bus” is located in the food court inside Valley Hills Mall.
Last year more than 40,400 school supplies were donated. Each of the three school systems gets a cut of the total, and the breakdown of total supplies is determined by school system size.
“It makes a big impact at our schools,” said Melanie Elrod, Newton-Conover City Schools Career Technical Education director. “Every level is affected, because we have students from kindergarten to the 12th grade. We are a very economically challenged school system, so we definitely have that need. It sort of eases the parents' mind that we will have those school supplies.”
Elrod said NCCS receives an adequate amount of school supplies each year and is able to serve the students they see in need.  
“Every child wants to go to schools with new supplies,” Elrod said. “We get a great supply of things, and we are able to help every child who needs something. They get a chance to feel like the other children.”
Because NCCS also has homeless children in its school system, the Feed the Children organization also assisted in providing school supplies for children last year, Elrod said. In the middle of the school year, when supplies are low, Elrod said that various organizations also assist NCCS with donating school supplies.
Monetary donations to the Stuff the Bus drive are also accepted. Money that the United Way receives goes toward buying other school supplies throughout the year when materials are low, Abee said.
Though children in need will benefit the most from the Stuff the Bus drive, Abee said that donors in the past have also enjoyed the program.
“The folks who participate in this give to the bus year after year,” Abee said. “There was a kid in middle school who had a birthday party a year or two ago. Instead of having his friends bring gifts, he told them to bring school supplies to his birthday. They brought those school supplies in.”