By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Donations are lagging behind for the annual Stuff the Bus campaign sponsored by United Way of South Central Illinois.
The organization is trying to collect school supplies for local school children, with the culmination of the event Friday when a school bus is filled with supplies generated by donations. The event will be held at GenFed on 42nd Street. A barbecue lunch will be served and prizes will be awarded.
"Donations are going slow, as usual, but I think people haven't starting thinking about going back to school," said Rhonda Edmonson, executive director of United Way. "We're hoping that people will come out for our event Friday. That's our push. We want people to bring out supplies for that event."
Edmonson for those that can't make it Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., cash donations and supplies can still be made through Aug. 9.
"We'll be packing the week of Aug. 5. We encourage donations to be made by Aug. 2 so we know what we're dealing with the week we're packing," Edmonson added.
Participants in the Living United 5K run — where contestants will be splashed with color — are also encouraged to bring school supplies. That event is scheduled on Aug. 3.
Several businesses have also pledged support for the Stuff the Bus campaign, including Verizon, which will be donating 100 to 150 backpacks that are stuffed with school supplies. On Aug. 3, Jefferson County residents can pick up free backpacks that day at the store at 4115 Broadway, on a first-come, first served basis.
"My message is even though were in the sixth year of Stuff the Bus, people think we'll be OK if they don't donate. We still need donations. We want to make sure kids have supplies. Any other businesses that want a box we can get something to them, but we just encourage businesses to collect items and bring them out on the 19th," Edmonson said.
Around 3,000 Jefferson County pupils who receive free or reduced lunches are being targeted by the agency to receive school supplies collected by the United Way.
Items needed by the organization include:
Pens, pencils, blunt scissors, sharp scissors, wide-ruled notebooks, college-ruled notebooks, glue sticks, glue bottles, folders, filler paper (college and wide-ruled), pencil boxes, markers, crayons, pencil top erasers, pink erasers, colored pencils, three ring binders, usb drives, rulers, Kleenex, and alcohol-free hand sanitizer.