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Stuffin' the bus
By the time a Glenn County Office of Education bus pulled away from Walmart on Sunday, it was stuffed with school supplies.
Shoppers began opening their hearts and wallets on Friday to help more than 400 Glenn County youth get ready to go back to school.
The event to collect needed school supplies for Glenn County's homeless children lasted three days.
"The response has been amazing," said Mary Davis, coordinator of the After School Program/SPARK.
Many shoppers picked up a few extra pens and notebooks to donate while shopping for school supplies for their own children.
Others were simply passing through town and wanted to help students get off to a great start this school year.
"I'm all for education," said Lynette Messmer of Corning. "I understand because I have grandchildren, but it's also nice to be able to help those who need it."
The Glenn County Office of Education, with help from the Kiwanis Club, organized the event to help students considered homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act prepare for school.
Lake and Princeton schools start this week.
Plaza, Elk Creek and Willows schools start on Monday or Tuesday, followed by Orland, Capay and Hamilton City schools the following week.
"We want all students to start the school year off right and on equal footing," said Robin Smith, McKinney-Vento coordinator with Glenn County Office of Education.
Smith said Glenn County has a large population of children considered homeless by living in temporary shelters, foster care, motels, camp trailers or with extended family members.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Act was the 1987 federal legislation that provides funding to help with the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in US public schools.
It was re-authorized as part of the No Child Left Behind Act in January 2002.
McKinney-Vento helps agencies like the Office of Education achieve success in school of homeless children by also addressing transportation needs, immunization and residency requirements, lack of birth certificates and school records and guardianship issues.
Glenn County Office of Education's "Project Help" program has always paid for backpacks and school supplies for homeless students with McKinney-Vento grants, as well as hygiene supplies likes toothbrushes and toothpaste, hair brushes and combs, socks and underclothes and other necessities.
Smith said a decline in grant money would have made it difficult this year for Project Help to purchase the necessary supplies, and still address needs such as tutoring and transportation.
"That is why I thought about trying a 'Stuff the Bus' campaign," she said. "I saw it done in other communities."
As it turned out, it was the level of support from Walmart shoppers and volunteers that took Smith by surprise.
"I was overwhelmed by the response," Smith said of the large amount of supplies donated. "It makes me so proud to be a part of this community."
Shoppers walking into Walmart were given a list of the needed supplies to help make shopping easier, and Walmart had to stock their shelves several times to keep up with purchases.
"I actually like the idea of people helping people rather than relying on government programs," said Doris Reckers of Orland, as she picked out a few things from the list. "People in our communities are very generous, especially when it comes to our children and our schools."
Those who purchased supplies dropped them off at a table located at the store's exit or handed them over at the bus, which was parked in the lot.
Natalie Navarro, 11, a student at Walden Academy, spent most of Saturday helping with the campaign by passing out flyers or collecting supplies.
"One guy came out with bags full of stuff," Navarro said. "He spent over $100."
Navarro said she was delighted to help with the "Stuff the Bus" campaign because it was such a good cause.
"It's a good way to help homeless children get school supplies," she said.
On Tuesday, youth from 4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts and other volunteers began stuffing backpacks with the donated supplies, which will be distributed to Glenn County youths today through Friday.
Smith said using young volunteers to help with the program allows them to understand and be sensitive to the fact that many students — perhaps someone sitting next to them in class — are trying to get through school while living in difficult circumstances.
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