HELENA — For 15 years, the Angel Fund through “Stuff the Bus” has made sure students have the needed supplies for the year. With the full return to a more normal class year, they’re anticipating the need will be greater than ever.
“Last year was the first year we did monetary grants and we had 28 schools apply for grants and the requests were over $50,000 that came in. So we are anticipating this year it will be at least that high,” said Stuff the Bus Chair Mary Anderson.
Rather than collecting physical supplies, once again Stuff the Bus will be collecting monetary donations instead. As an added benefit the monetary donations help the schools get exactly what supplies are needed for the students.
Schools can submit grant applications through August 1, and Anderson says they’ve already received over $37,000 in requests.
Depending on the age, school supplies can cost a family around $100 per student. Money that can be hard to find on a tight budget. Stuff the Bus makes sure those students have school supplies on day one, which can also be a good confidence booster for kids.
“For these students to be able to come in with all the supplies they need in those first few days is huge,” explained Anderson. “I’m in an elementary school now and I can tell you there is nothing more exciting than watching a new student see their backpack, that they love, and look like everyone else.”
Anderson added it’s also beneficial in getting parents invested in their child’s learning because they see that the schools are invested in their children.
Depending on the age, a student that doesn’t have proper school supplies at the beginning of the year can fall weeks behind their peers.
Helena High School Principal Steve Thennis says he sees success stories every year of students that benefitted from Stuff the Bus supplies. If the burden was placed solely on the schools, he’s not sure they’d be able to meet the need of each student.
“It would be hit and miss I think, unfortunately,” said Thennis. “This casts a really broad net over getting foundational supplies for a kid where if it was left up to the classroom instructor to get those things, our budgets are pretty tight and we don’t have enough to go around.”
Educators always hope that the next generation will do better than the last, after all that’s the purpose of our education system. One of the greatest gifts and education offers is the ability for a student, no matter where they came from, to chart their own future.
People can make a donation to Stuff the Bus online here. They can also send a check to PO Box 7436, Helena, MT 59604, or stop by Valley Bank and make a donation to their “Stuff the Bus” matched account. Valley Bank will be matching $5,000 raised for the organization.