As thousands of local students return to class next month, many are sadly arriving without all the necessary supplies. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 64.4% of public school children in Lafayette Parish were classified as economically disadvantaged in 2019. Additionally, 23% of Lafayette children live in poverty. For many families, new school supplies must come from the same limited funds used for basic necessities like food and shelter.
“We know from our work with ALICE Families that a single mother with one child may have $300 a month to spend on ‘miscellaneous’. This means the budget for school supplies is the same budget for auto repairs, medical needs and other costs,” said Carlee Alm-LaBar, President and CEO of United Way of Acadiana.
United Way of Acadiana hosts its annual Stuff the Bus donation campaign to help fill the supply gap for families and teachers. Through collection, local businesses and individuals can purchase supplies that are then delivered to teachers and schools in the United Way of Acadiana service area for student use.
“Through programs like this, we have the opportunity to work with our teachers to get supplies into the hands of the kids in the class who need them most, and at the same time, that can be really important for the financial stability of the local community. households,” Alm-LaBar said.
The Stuff the Bus supply list includes many basic items such as pencils, scissors, glue, crayons, ink pens, construction paper, notebooks, loose-leaf paper and binders, as well as sanitary items like wipes, paper towels and hand sanitizer. Although the items appear standard, their availability can make a big difference in how local students perform in the classroom.
“For students, a lack of supplies can create an educational barrier that will carry them through their college careers,” said Blair Green, director of community engagement for United Way of Acadiana. “By providing supplies, you are helping to support the future growth of our students and our community.”
There are several ways for individuals and businesses to donate to this year’s Stuff the Bus. United Way of Acadiana has created a Wish List on Amazon to facilitate the purchase of items, which will then be delivered to the organization for distribution. Additionally, more than 20 local businesses in the parishes of Lafayette, Vermilion, Acadia and St. Martin have set up donation boxes for people to bring in items. Donations can be dropped off until Friday August 6th. For a complete list of locations and to view the Amazon listing, visit unitedwayofacadiana.org/stuffthebus.
Green said that once all the supplies are collected, this year’s giveaway event will be different from previous years. Rather than bringing items to schools first, United Way of Acadiana will install supplies in their building and invite teachers to purchase what they need at a special event in mid-August.
“We heard feedback from teachers that they liked the deliveries but sometimes needed additional types of supplies,” Green said. “By setting up the distribution in this way, teachers will have the opportunity to assess what their students need most and choose the supplies that best meet those needs. We are delighted because it is a new point of contact for us with the teachers. We can also use it as an opportunity to educate them about the resources available in the community if they have a student in need.
United Way of Acadiana has hosted Stuff the Bus for over 10 years as a key event in its ongoing support of local education. The organization’s other education-related initiatives include Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to provide books for children, the Leader In Me leadership development program, and Early Head Start, which provides crucial early childhood education. childhood, and the Teacher Awards organized in partnership with the Lafayette Education Foundation. . For more information, visit unitedwayofacadiana.org.