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As students gear up to go back to school, their families are gearing up for record spending. According to a new survey from National Retail Federation, families plan to spend an average $696.70 on everything from new clothes to school supplies, up from $684.79 last year and topping the previous record of $688.62 set in 2012.
As you might imagine, that number is a big one for many families. According to Junior Achievement USA, 60 percent of parents say that it’s a challenge to afford necessary school supplies, and that's where community-organized “Stuff the Bus” fundraisers come in. Like a toy drive for school supplies, these events give community members an opportunity to contribute materials for kids who need them and provide underprivileged kids a positive start to the school year.
IGA stores across the country have been eager to help this worthy cause, volunteering time and talents toward events in their communities. Take a look at a few examples from across the U.S.
In Cuba City, Wisconsin, Thompson’s IGA has been taking part in the local Stuff the Bus campaign organized by the Lioness Club for the past six years, said Loretta Goodridge, who is the scan coordinator and social media manager for the store.
Lioness Club members work with the area schools to put together a supply list, then post signs and bins in participating businesses. The campaign generally runs for four weeks from the end of July into August, which builds in time for getting the materials out to the kids before school starts. In addition to helping promote the event, the store will also help promote specific items—such as anti-bacterial wipes or tissues—when they coincide with sales, said Goodridge.
Dissmore’s IGA in Pullman, Washington has been playing a key role in their community’s long-running Stuff the Bus fund drive. For the past 11 years, the local Kiwanis Club has parked a school bus in the store’s parking lot during the weekend event, which took place August 8-10 this year. Using the master supply list as a guide, Dissmore’s puts together its own packages of items, and for a $10 donation, people can buy a bag that gets added to the donation pile.
The store puts together about 50-60 bags and kicks in a 10 percent discount on the products to add extra value to the overall amount, said Dissmore’s owner Archie McGregor, who added it’s been a popular option for his customers. “A $10 donation isn’t that hard on them and they know they’re helping a good cause and know exactly where it’s going,” he said.
According to the event’s website, the fundraiser benefits 2,000 local kids in Pullman and nearby Moscow, Idaho. Among this year’s highlights: a single donation of 400 pounds of supplies collected by employees of locally-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. As part of the event, they also collect used musical instruments for kids who need them.
Being part of this popular event gains the store a bit of additional publicity, too, McGregor said. The store benefits from promotion on the radio and other media outlets, plus having the bus as a main drop-off location in the store’s parking lot. “Having the bus out there creates some excitement,” he said.
In Kentucky, the Stuff the Bus Foundation has expanded its mission to provide year-round support to school kids across southern Kentucky. In addition to Stuff the Bus fundraisers, they provide backpack food kits for children in food insecure households and run a scholarship program for high school students.
The biggest program they run continues to be Stuff the Bus. This July, nearly 48 Houchens-owned independent grocery stores across 13 counties in south central Kentucky sold $1 pinups and collected donations for Stuff the Bus, raising $13,500.
According to a news report, in the first year of the Stuff the Bus initiative (2005), the program raised about 2.5 tons of supplies for school children, and last year, the 14th year of the program, the generosity of the southern Kentucky community raised 25 tons of supplies.