HELENA — On Saturday morning, a bus full of school supplies arrived at Helena’s C.R. Anderson Middle School. It held everything that was collected this summer, as part of the Angel Fund’s 13th annual “Stuff the Bus” donation drive.
“We usually average enough for the 1,300 students we serve, and this year I would say we definitely met that,” said Mary Anderson, the drive’s chair.
All week, bus drivers went around the area to pick up supplies from about 90 businesses, churches and other organizations that had been collecting them. The items will be made available to families in need in Lewis and Clark, Broadwater and Jefferson Counties.
“When you’re at businesses and people are giving you supplies and they’re so excited to help, it makes you realize how important our kids are to our community, and we are just so grateful for that,” Anderson said.
On Saturday, volunteers brought all the supplies into the C.R. Anderson cafeteria, where they organized them into piles based on the type of item: pencils, crayons, notebooks and more. Once everything was set up, representatives from each participating school collected what they will need to serve their students.
Robyn Arntson, a second-grade teacher at East Helena’s Prickly Pear Elementary School, was on hand Saturday to pick up supplies for East Helena students. She has also volunteered to ride on the bus and collect donations from businesses.
“It is so wonderful to provide this service for the community,” she said. “There really is a need.”
Each school has its own process for distributing the supplies to students. Starting next week, families who need supplies can contact a coordinator at their local school to find out more. A list of the participating schools and coordinators is available on the Angel Fund’s website.
Organizers say a year’s worth of school supplies can cost $70 to $80 for an elementary school student, and $90 to $100 for a middle-schooler or high-schooler. Stuff the Bus is aimed at making sure that cost isn’t a barrier to a student’s education, and that all students have a level playing field.
“It is exciting to see kids come to school with brand-new supplies,” said Arntson. “It just helps out parents that might be in that position – that need that hand up this year – and are able to send their kiddos with a smile to school.”
Anderson is the coordinator for C.R. Anderson, where she works as a counselor. She said it’s especially moving for her to hand the supplies to families, and that she’s thankful for the donations that make it possible.
“So many people give that never see those kids’ smiles, they never see their parents’ relief, and I’m just so grateful that we have people who do that for us,” she said.
In addition to these supplies, the Stuff the Bus drive also collected monetary donations. Anderson said the Angel Fund will use that money to help cover schools that run short on any specific items.