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Stuffing the bus

Local organizations collecting school supplies and shoes

By Angela Spencer

This article was published July 17, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

chuck-jones-from-left-candace-morrow-jacob-green-and-ariel-smith-hold-up-school-supplies-as-part-of-the-effort-of-the-united-way-and-citizens-bank-in-batesville-during-a-stuff-the-bus-campaign-to-collect-supplies-to-give-to-school-children-in-need

Chuck Jones, from left, Candace Morrow, Jacob Green and Ariel Smith hold up school supplies as part of the effort of the United Way and Citizens Bank in Batesville during a Stuff the Bus campaign to collect supplies to give to school children in need.

School is still out for the summer, but some local organizations are thinking ahead for when it is time for students to sharpen their pencils and gather their notebook paper for the first day of class.

The United Way of Independence County, The Citizens Bank, Stanley Wood Chevrolet, Scott Wood Chrysler, the Rotary Club of Batesville and the John Herman Hickman Foundation of Peco Foods are sponsoring Stuff the Bus and Best Foot Forward to receive donations of school supplies and new shoes for children in need before school starts.

Last year, United Way and The Citizens Bank started Stuff the Bus for Batesville area schools. Organizers parked a school bus at the Batesville Walmart one Saturday to collect supplies for children in need. Chuck Jones, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of The Citizens Bank, said bank officials publicized the opportunity for about a week and did not know what to expect.

“It was a rainy Saturday. We didn’t really expect anything,” Jones said. “The results were absolutely phenomenal. People would come out with their shopping carts, and they would make a turn and come right to the bus to give us school supplies they had just purchased. We were really humbled by that.”

This year, the Scott and Stanley Woods family of car dealerships has joined with the Stuff the Bus effort to add athletic shoes to the requested donations for the Best Foot Forward part of the campaign.

“Scott Woods’ grandsons were the ones who wanted to do this,” said Ariel Smith, marketing coordinator at Stanley Wood Chevrolet. “They saw some of the kids not able to participate in PE because they didn’t have pairs of shoes. Scott said that every child deserves a good pair of shoes.”

Deanna Green, executive director of the United Way of Independence County, said the school supplies and shoes will go to schools in five school districts — Cave City, Cedar Ridge, Midland, Southside and Batesville — and the goal is to get supplies into the kids’ hands before school starts.

“[The supplies will] be given to the schools prior to the open houses,” Green said. “Once the collection’s done, we have volunteers who will sort the supplies, and they will be given out proportionally to the school districts. Those items will be distributed out to the families as part of the open-house process. It’s completely intended for the children who could not afford it on their own, and they use the free and [reduced-price] lunch program as a guideline for that.”

The John Herman Hickman Foundation of Peco Foods has pledged $500 for Best Foot Forward and issued a matching challenge for another $500, and the Batesville Rotary Club will give $1,000 toward Stuff the Bus.

Buses will be at the Batesville Walmart, 3150 Harrison St., and at Stanley Wood dealership, 1674 Batesville Blvd., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 2.

Additionally, drop-off locations have been set up at local Batesville and Cave City branches of The Citizens Bank and the car dealerships.

“Our collection time frame is now until the week after Stuff the Bus,” Green said. “Then we’ll do our sorting and distribution after that. The open houses are in mid-August, so it gives a little bit of time in case people just hear about it at Walmart on that day and still want to give.”

School supplies, new shoes and monetary donations will be accepted.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or aspencer@arkansasonline.com.

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