Stuff the Bus drive brings school supplies to county students

ADDISON COUNTY — This year the staff at the United Way of Addison County hosted a back-to-school donation drive known as ‘Stuff the Bus!’ The donation drive was held by placing school buses and volunteers  for collecting supplies at three different locations around Addison County: Vergennes, Bristol and Middlebury.
In combination with the collected supplies and over $3,000 in cash donations from donors in the community, the United Way of Addison County was able to prepare over 150 supplies-stuffed backpacks for elementary, middle and high school age kids. The backpacks were distributed to H.O.P.E. in Middlebury, Vergennes Food Shelf (located at the Vergennes Congregational Church) and a two day shop located at Holley Hall in Bristol (hosted by Bristol Recreation).
Although the Back to School Shop is a program that has been available to the public for over a decade, this year was the first official year that the United Way of Addison County took on the program and the staff took a slightly different approach. The community collection sites were new and made it possible for anyone in the community to contribute to the program.
In the past, the program had more strict eligibility guidelines explains Jesse Brooks, volunteer coordinator and regional prevention coordinator for United Way of Addison County, “We saw the advantage of universal access to this program, we viewed the program as county wide support for all of our school age children with the understanding that all children should be given the tools they need to have for a successful school year.”
A study conducted by Middlebury College shows that 45 percent of individuals living in Addison County are at or below the poverty level, whereas the official federal poverty level only recognizes 11 percent. “We understand that not all of the families who feel a financial pinch of preparing their children for back-to-school are necessarily families who are eligible or qualifying for other support programs, so we wanted to be sure that if they did need the assistance of the Back to School program, they could get it with no questions asked,” she said.
No matter what budget size families are working with, the expense of back-to-school is undeniably steep. Stuff the Bus and the Back to School Shop programs are designed to alleviate the strain families in Addison County feel when this time of year is upon us. It is the mission of your local United Way of Addison County to make sure that the entire community is set up for success in all areas that determine our overall health and wellness.
United Way of Addison County would like to thank the following who helped make this program a success: City of Vergennes, Town of Bristol, Betcha-Transit, Vergennes Congregational Church, H.O.P.E. and the Bristol Recreation Department. Volunteers for the event included Emily Rasmussen, Faith Parkins, John Kromer, Callie Pegues, Camila Blanco,  Adelaide Brooks, Olivia Brooks, Jeremy Brooks, Trey Bosworth and Darla Senecal.
Backpacks are still available for students in elementary through high school at the schools themselves or by calling the United Way of Addison County office at 388-7189.

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