ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County Schools Stuff the Bus campaign kicked off its eighth year Friday morning outside Walmart with a goal of equipping as many kids as possible with basic back-to-school necessities like paper, pencils and backpacks.
“They’ve been collecting stuff (at the entrance) and we’ve had some people come and bring stuff,” said Suzanne Hudson, a teacher at Richmond Senior High School. “We’ll actually have the bus at the high school for the first football game next Friday night, since tonight we travel.”
Hudson said that on Saturday “you can leave stuff at your mailbox and the mail carriers will pick it up.”
“And I’m sure you could take things to the central office, or any school for that matter, and they’d take them there,” she added. “It’s not an official thing, but I can’t imagine any school that would not accept the donations if someone brought them.”
Hudson manned the small tent beside a school bus decorated with signs from all of this year’s sponsors as Beta Club members helped her distribute 500 free backpacks stuffed with school supplies to kids gearing up to return to Richmond County classrooms later this month.
Monetary donations, said Ginny Sellers, would be used by the helpers to go back into the store and purchase more supplies that will be distributed directly to schools.
“These are my Richmond Senior High School Beta Club helpers,” said school district information officer Ashley-Michelle Thublin. “We had 500 book bags that were packed with notebooks and paper, then we have all of this stuff — we have all of the sponsors on the buses — this is all the money that the sponsors have donated.”
Thublin said that all of the donations would be spent on school supplies.
“The kids will go and sort all this out,” she said of the helpers. “And then the different principals and guidance counselors come next week and take it back to their schools and give it to the kids at their individual schools.”
While Stuff the Bus has a long history in Richmond County, the free backpack giveaway is only in its second year.
“Last year it was more everyone got here at nine o’clock and ‘Whoa!” Thublin said. “This year, we’ve definitely seen the same number of kids, but they’ve come throughout the day, which has been awesome because we actually got to interact with them and wish them a happy first day of school and all that good stuff.”
An increase in the number of sponsors this year resulted in more money to invest in school supplies for county students, she added.
Partners this year included United Way of Richmond County, Walmart of Rockingham, WSOC-TV and Richmond Senior High School graduate Dannell Ellerbe — a New Orleans Saints linebacker.
Thublin said the school district is grateful for support from local businesses, organizations and individuals including: FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital, Southern Builders Inc., Ben and Amber Moss, Convenience Corner, Classic Apparel, Carolina Farm Credit, Jimmy Capps, McDonald’s of Rockingham, Long’s Pool Center, Hayden Construction, Murphy Electric Supply, International Textile Group, Vulcan Materials, The Golden Rule, Rex’s Floor Covering, von Drehle Corporation and the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.