United Way of Northwest Louisiana (UWNWLA) partnered with Bossier Parish Schools and Caddo Parish Public Schools for its annual Fill the Bus school supply drive, sponsored by Aetna. Within three weeks, the organization collected 18,250 school supplies with an impact value of $26,900 for students and teachers within the school districts. Monetary donations resulted in $2,151 for the school systems. Bossier Parish Libraries, RRCU, Shreve Memorial Library, North Caddo Medical Center, and Blanchard Medical aided the initiative by collecting supplies at their locations.
UWNWLA’s Fill the Bus initiative, with the help of volunteer teachers, encourages Northwest Louisiana communities to shop at participating Walmart Supercenters to purchase and donate school supplies for local students. This initiative allows K-12 students in Bossier and Caddo parishes to start the upcoming school year with the basic tools needed for success. Every year, the school districts decide how the supplies are distributed. Supplies collected for Bossier Schools went into their supply closet for teachers to choose from. Teachers who volunteered for Fill the Bus could choose their supplies first. Teachers from Caddo Schools who volunteered for the initiative took the supplies collected from their volunteer shift to put directly into their classrooms.
“The support United Way provides to our teachers and students at the start of the school year is invaluable,” said Bossier Schools Superintendent Mitch Downey. “Thanks to the Fill the Bus drive, we were able to set up a school supply room for educators to get items needed for their classrooms that some of our families were unable to provide. Sending children back to school is expensive enough, then factor in everything costing more, making it difficult for many to buy everything on their children’s supply lists. Our teachers see that firsthand, often reaching into their own wallets to fill the gaps, but thankfully, United Way’s efforts go a long way in helping with those needs.”
Bossier Schools will use the monetary donations from Fill the Bus to purchase additional school supplies requested by teachers. Caddo Schools is using its monetary donations to support the McKinney-Vento Program, which provides rights and services to children and youth experiencing homelessness and allows them to remain in their schools of origin during their homelessness.
“I want to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the community members who generously supported Fill the Bus,” said Raavin Evans, UWNWLA Director of Community Impact. “Your contributions will make a significant impact on the education of our students. We surpassed our goal this year and increased our impact because of YOU. We are truly thankful for your kindness and support. Thank you for coming together to make a difference!”
Fill the Bus benefits more than 4,000 elementary, middle, and high school children identified as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and/or families struggling to make ends meet. This initiative seeks to lessen the strain on already strapped household budgets. According to the National Retail Federation, families with K-12 children in the United States plan to spend $864 on school supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, backpacks, and lunchboxes.