Volunteers gather school supplies for students in need


A lone school bus shuttled around Pierce County last week, but instead of picking up students, it gathered donated school supplies those students will need once classes start next week.

Donated backpacks, pencils, crayons and notebooks filled the seats, aisle and even the onboard storage areas by the time the route ended.

“It was fantastic,” event organizer LeAnna Esquivel said. “And we have more school supplies and backpacks still coming in.”

Communities in Schools’ annual Stuff the Bus donation drive gathered donations from more than 50 business and government offices. One of the largest donation collection sites was at the Tacoma Mall, where shoppers, diners and visitor dropped off supplies and backpacks at the Guest Services information booth.

“Tacoma Mall is a community hub, and we are thrilled to partner with Communities In Schools on this important initiative,” said Rachel Stewart, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Tacoma Mall. “Making sure our local students have what they need for a successful school year is important and we know our Tacoma Mall shoppers and diners will do what they can to contribute.”

Once volunteers filled the bus, they unloading the stuffed bus at Mount Tahoma High School with help from the school’s football team. Volunteers then spent the

following day stuffing the pencils, papers, pens, rulers and markers into age-appropriate backpacks that were then sorted for distribution to schools in Franklin Pierce, Bethel and Tacoma. Those schools will then hand the backpacks out to students in low-income families that could not otherwise pay for the rising costs of school supplies on their own.

CIS has about 1,000 packs ready to go and still more work ahead as volunteers continue to sort supplies and stuff packs while more backpacks and supplies continue to flow into the donation drive. The effort hopes to provide school supplies to about 4,000 Pierce County students this year, which is about 1,000 more than last year’s tally.

“It is a project that is near and dear to my heart,” Esquivel said, noting that she received Stuff the Bus school supplies as a student at Mount Tacoma and is now attending University of Puget Sound.

Communities In Schools of Tacoma is the local arm of the nation’s largest dropout prevention organization that strives to empower students to stay in school and achieve in life by connecting volunteers and community members with students through donations, tutoring or mentoring programs.

Volunteers and donors can still support the effort by contacting CIS or by donating clothes or food or volunteering their time, particularly by tutoring students in math and English. Cash donations are always appreciated and are used to buy specific supplies at deep discounts from local retailers.

“There are a lot of avenues they can take,” Esquivel said.

Tacoma students start school on Sept. 6. Learn more about ways you can help students get ready for school at tacoma.ciswa.org.

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