LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – A 30-plus-year partnership between La Crosse’s Salvation Army and Walmart, the annual ‘fill the busis back to help local students receive new school supplies.
Stuff the Bus, a national campaign with more than 3,000 participating Walmarts, runs this weekend from Friday, August 6 through Sunday, August 8. This is one of the biggest efforts to help local charities collect donated school supplies to support families in need.
Starting Friday, shoppers can expect to see a donation bin at the entrance to every Walmart store as well as at select customer service centers. People are encouraged to buy new school supplies and put them in the bins when they leave. After the weekend, the Salvation Army comes to collect the donations for distribution.
In the La Crosse region, more than 600 children in need of support have been identified. The Diocese of La Crosse Catholic Charities is coordinating the three-day weekend event in the region. Shannon Parker of Catholic Charities says all donations are appreciated, especially items that families on tight budgets struggle to afford. The more expensive items like scientific calculators and a nice new backpack are the most needed.
“Seeing the kids come in and pick out their backpacks. They’re so happy,” Parker said. “They put on their backpacks right away, they’re full of school supplies, they feel really good about that first day of school and it’s a feeling that can’t really be described. But having people who donate and are part of this program, they can be part of it.”
The Salvation Army collects and helps sort donated items in its warehouse in La Crosse. New Corps officer Major Alan Hellstrom feels it is so important to help families, especially when financial troubles are at their worst, with the pandemic casting a heavy shadow over another school year.
“We are thinking of students returning to school. There are concerns that parents have, that children have,” Maj. Hellstrom said. “And anything we can do to help alleviate that. If they don’t have to worry about ‘Hey, where are my school supplies from? “So we can really help ease some of that worry and that’s what we’re here for.”
Helping the community is a big part of Walmart’s connection to every town and city with a store. General Merchandise Coach Hayley Pagel says the “Stuff the Bus” campaign is playing a big part in that effort.
“Working closely with the community is very, very important to the business itself, not to mention our store.” said Pagel. “My store manager takes great pride in being involved in the community. And the Stuff the Bus event is very important to her and to the entire company.”
Local organizations such as Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army are primary points of contact if you wish to donate items beyond this weekend’s event. They also accept monetary gifts that will go toward purchasing needed items that the donations leave empty.
For more information on how to donate or to register a student to receive a school supply kit, visit these websites: https://cclse.org/ or https://centralusa.salvationarmy .org/lacrosse/.