The first day of school just got a lot brighter for thousands of local students.
On Saturday, Stuff the Bus, a project from the United Way of San Benito County, distributed backpacks filled with school supplies to students in need.
“It’s so our kids can start school prepared,” said coordinator, Vicki Fortino, as she stood before stacks of new backpacks laid out on tables at the Target parking lot.
Throughout the morning, volunteers gave the backpacks to eligible students previously identified by their school district.
“Homeless, foster and migrant kids are served first, then people who receive free and reduced school lunch,” explained Fortino. “We should have 7,000 backpacks based on that formula, but fortunately, what we got here is what the schools asked us for. We were able to fill every request.”
The backpacks were filled with school supplies according to grade level.
“Kindergarten to third grade received items such as composition books, crayons, rulers, colored pencils, and folders and fourth to eighth grade got pencils, pens, binders and binder paper. All received pencil cases or pouches,” said Fortino.
And for the first time this year, high school students were served. Their backpacks contained a scientific calculator.
“As this grows and we get more donations, I’m sure they will open it up to more students who receive free and reduced school lunch,” said Fortino.
Students who did not attend the distribution day will receive their backpack at school, said Fortino.
Stuff the Bus, now in its fifth year, raised $15,000 for school supplies.
“We had 10 donation drop-off points in the area,” said Fortino.
About a hundred volunteers helped stuff and distribute the backpacks to students, explained Fortino.
Businesses and organizations who participated Saturday included Target, Rabobank, Hope Services, the San Benito High School water polo team, local Girls Scouts troops, Cienega 4-H, Rotary Club of Hollister, and Heroes for Hope.