Bulging buses

Stuff the Bus donations top $10,000 for area schools, students

Blount County residents donated more than $10,000 in school supplies and $700 cash to help Blount County schools and students during the Blount County Education Foundation’s annual Stuff the Bus promotion, held on Saturday, Aug. 7, at both the Alcoa and Maryville Wal-Mart stores.

“It was tremendous,” said Jan Gilson, board member and foundation vice president. “We collected more stuff than ever. It really was a great day. We had over $700 in cash donations, and I would say we had anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 worth of school supplies.”

Gilson said the two locations were staffed by Education Foundation board members, their spouses and family members as well as teachers, principals and students.

Board member Susan Stout was site coordinator at Maryville, and Gilson was site coordinator at Alcoa. Maryville store manager Melvin Covington and Alcoa store manager Boyce Smith were very accommodating to the foundation, Gilson said. “I can’t say enough about partnering with Wal-Mart,” Gilson said.

School bus contractors W.C. Huffman and Brad Long also provided school buses at each location. “Our bus drivers donated buses to be there as visuals to let people know we are legitimate,” Gilson said.

“Stuff the Bus” ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7 and more than 40 volunteers worked the two locations. “During that time, we let people know as they came in that we were collecting for kids of Blount County Schools who can’t afford school supplies,” Gilson said. “We are told by teachers that there are a lot of kids who show up without school supplies and can’t get them. We have lists of recommended items for the community to use. Folks would go in, shop, and bring items back out to the volunteers.”

Gilson said the volunteers then collected and sorted the items. At 2 p.m., they took all the items to Eagleton Middle School. “That is where our school supply store is, and volunteers put things in the portables and arrange them by item,” she said. “Teachers put in requests for everything from binders and pencils, hand sanitizers, notebooks and back packs.”

Gilson said the community is very generous. “This is the reason this project is such a success. The community sees this as a very tangible way they can give something to the kids of the Blount County School System,” she said. “Not everybody can write big corporate checks. This is something people feel they can do.”

Gilson said the idea is to get the supplies to as many students as possible. “We don’t want any kids to feel bad because they don’t have the stuff they need for their classes.”

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