United Way and Volunteers Prepare for Drive-thru Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive

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 child’s success.”

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

On September 1st, Stuff the Bus volunteers will be in downtown Grand Rapids (Parking Lot along First Avenue NW) from 11 a.m. to 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, 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 Way’s school supply drive, sign up to volunteer, or request supplies, visit uwlakes.org or call 218-999-7570.

Ways You Can Help

  • Collect supplies at your church, organization, civic group, or business. Call 218-999-7570 to get set up, or visit uwlakes.org to download a toolkit and find tips for hosting a successful drive.
  • Volunteer to help us “Stuff the Bus” on September 1st! Volunteers will operate drive-thru donation dropoff with social distancing measures in place. Visit volunteer.uwlakes.org to sign up.
  • Sponsor a virtual backpack. Text LAKES to 26989 to make a one-time, monthly, or round-up contribution. Supporters can donate a full pack ($30), a half-pack ($15), or a quarter-pack ($7.50).
  • Pack a backpack full of school supplies for an elementary, middle, or high-school student. Make sure that your backpack is stocked for the school year with a school supply list from an area school district.
  • Drop off donations. Help us “Stuff the Bus” with donations on September 1st, or drop off donations at a dropbox. Visit uwlakes.org for a list of dropbox locations.
  • Shop online! Shop our Target, Amazon, or Wal-Mart wishlists and have items shipped straight to United Way to get involved while staying safe at home.