9th annual Stuff the Bus event equips Mat-Su families with new school supplies

Hundreds of families turned out at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla
Hundreds of families turned out at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 6:26 PM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - There’s nothing quite like that back-to-school feeling — as the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and the crisp fold of a blank notebook waiting to solve math problems and host essay answers is exciting for parents and students alike. However, it can be equally stressful for parents trying to get everything they need in time for that big first day.

On Monday at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, United Way of Mat-Su held its 9th annual Stuff the Bus event where parents and children picked out brand new school supplies for free. The event had everything from school supplies, to immunizations, clothing, and games for kids. United Way Mat-Su Executive Director Stephanie Allen said it’s a way to help Matanuska-Susitna Borough families offset the cost of getting their kids ready for the upcoming year.

“It just gives them a little bit of extra wiggle room in preparation for school beginning,” Allen said. “It’s very overwhelming for families.”

According to Allen, the average cost of school supplies is about $200 per student, and that doesn’t include new clothing, shoes, or haircuts. United Way of Mat-Su funds the event with the help of grants from the Mat-Su Health Foundation and Conoco Phillips.

The morning started off strong as families entered the sports complex, but it quickly looked like a sign of the times as hundreds of families formed a line that eventually wrapped around the building. One parent of a soon-to-be first grader said with prices going up everywhere, it seemed like the thing to do for her family.

The 2022 Stuff the Bus had enough school supplies for 800 students. Allen said they used to average about 1,200, but COVID caused a dramatic decrease in the number of families needing the supplies.

“We really were unsure because after COVID, the numbers have really fluctuated,” Allen stated.

But COVID uncertainty and economic woes didn’t seem to get in the way of kids — and the 75 volunteers — from having a good time. Palmer Junior Middle School teacher Linda Jo Klapperich enjoyed her day volunteering, handing out folders and asking every student what school they go to.

“This is a very special time of the year because they’re getting ready and they’re thinking about school,” Klapperich said. “This is a great activity for everybody to get ready and be thinking about the school year.”

While the line might have been long, kids passed the time playing connect four, mini golf, and cornhole while thankful parents prepared for that first day of school that’s just around the corner.

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