United Way of Paducah-McCracken County's 10th annual "Stuff The Bus" school supply drive proved successful, based on the piles of No. 2 pencils, backpacks, glue, scissors and other items gathered Saturday for local students.
More than 80 volunteers and United Way employees worked most of Saturday to hand out school supply lists, collect donated supplies and "stuff" school buses outside of Walmart and Sam's Club locations on Hinkleville Road, Irvin Cobb Drive and James-Sanders Boulevard. The supplies will be distributed to public and private schools in Paducah and McCracken County, while $879.79 in cash also was collected from the three sites.
LaToya Benberry, family resource coordinator at McNabb Elementary School, called the drive a "big asset" for McNabb and for all family resource centers, as students from low-income families may not have supplies. The drive helps teachers cut back on classroom spending, too.
"Teachers always have to come out of pocket for those things," Benberry said. "Sometimes they even change curriculum because -- you know -- those things are needed, but because our city donates to 'Stuff The Bus,' then they'll come to the family resource center and that's where we get these supplies."
"Stuff The Bus" is a cause that's close to the heart of retired Trigg County teacher Vickie Hendricks of Paducah. She taught for 36 years and donated supplies for the drive after shopping at Walmart on Hinkleville.
"I've been out for about 10 years, but prices on everything are going up and I know how much money I spent when I was in the classroom to help alleviate some of this," she said.
Hendricks said many people need help of all kinds and, if everybody pitches in a little, it goes a long way. Another shopper, Bridgette Harmon of Boaz, also contributed supplies for the drive, including crayons and glue.
"We just like to help the community and help the less fortunate, because times can be hard and we all have to start somewhere," Harmon said.
United Way employees stationed at the Hinkleville Road Walmart and Sam's Club reported steady donations early during the drive, including some cash donations, which are distributed among schools. Anne Bidwell, community impact manager for United Way, worked at the Sam's Club site.
"It's wonderful to be out here with the community and meeting the community, getting to see some really kind-hearted donors," she said. "Some stop and talk and really care about what the schools do and understand the importance of education in our community."
Bidwell said more than 1,300 students were helped for the 2018-19 school year, and United Way couldn't do "Stuff The Bus" without support from its sponsors -- Paducah Bank, Walmart and Sam's Club -- and local schools, which sent representatives to help Saturday.
School buses took donations to Hendron-Lone Oak Elementary School after 4 p.m. Saturday, where United Way employees and volunteers sorted them onto tables inside the school. The exact number of students helped from the drive won't be known for months, but executive director Betsy Burkeen thinks it will exceed last year's total.
"It's the 10th year for this event," Burkeen said. "I personally have (been) involved for six years. I can attest -- even though it'll take several months to get the numbers in of how many supplies were divvied up to how many families -- (that) this is the best year that we've ever had just from the looks of it."