Stuff the Bus – Hometown Focus

Second grader Ella Monson prepares for the upcoming school year at West Rapids Elementary School. United Ways Stuff the Bus school supply drive, which collects backpacks, school supplies, and masks, will be a drive-thru drop-off from 11 a.m. 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 1. Submitted photo.

GRAND RAPIDS United Way of 1000 Lakes recently launched their annual school supply drive, upping the ante this year with a Stuff the Bus event, challenging community members to donate enough supplies to fill a school bus.

The goal of the initiative is to ensure students start the school year prepared to learn and succeed, whether they are learning in the classroom, from a living room, or a combination of learning environments. Backpacks, highlighters, notebooks, USB drives, and headphones are just a few items collected. Schools are also in need of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, masks, and individual water bottles to keep schools safe and healthy for students, teachers, and staff.

The pandemic has brought more instability to our region, making the need for economic and educational assistance even greater, said United Way Executive Director Kim Brink Smith. Providing a backpack full of supplies can help students start the new year strong and make a profound impact on a childs success.

This years drive features additional options that allow supporters to get involved without visiting stores in person, including shopping from online wish lists at Target, Amazon, and Walmart, sponsoring a virtual backpack, or taking part in United Ways new text-to-give program by texting LAKES to 26989.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Stuff the Bus volunteers will be in downtown Grand Rapids at the parking lot along 1st Avenue NW from 11 a.m. 6 p.m. ready to take donations directly from vehicles. In addition to the drive-thru event, through mid-September, donations can be dropped off at the United Way office at 350 First Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.

Backpacks, school supplies, and hygiene items can be requested online by teachers, youth support workers, and caring adults for area students, kindergarten to 12th grade. To learn more about United Ways school supply drive, sign up to volunteer, or request supplies, visit or call 218-999- 7570.

How you can help

Collect supplies at yourchurch, organization, civicgroup, or business. Call218-999-7570 to get set up,or visit todownload a toolkit and findtips for hosting a successfuldrive. Volunteer to help stuffthe bus on Sept. 1. Volunteers will operate drive-thrudonation drop-off with socialdistancing measures inplace. Visit to sign up. Sponsor a virtual backpack. Text LAKES to 26989to make a one-time, monthly, or round-up contribution.Supporters can donate afull pack ($30), a half-pack($15), or a quarter-pack($7.50). Pack a backpack fullof school supplies for anelementary, middle, orhigh school student. Makesure that your backpack isstocked for the school yearwith a school supply listfrom an area school district.

Drop off donations. Helpstuff the bus with donationson Sept. 1, or drop off donations at a drop box. for a listof drop box locations. Shop online! Shop ourTarget, Amazon, or Walmartwish lists and have itemsshipped straight to UnitedWay to get involved whilestaying safe at home.

About United Way of 1000 Lakes

United Way of 1000 Lakes

is a leader in mobilizing the resources of individuals, companies, and government and local organizations to ignite community collaboration in support of the building blocks for a good quality of life: success in school; financial stability; access to care; and healthy lifestyle choices. United Way invites everyone to join the movement. Visit to learn more.

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Stuff the Bus - Hometown Focus

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