DuBOIS — Businesses at the DuBois Mall are striving to make sure that DuBois Area School District students won’t be without much-needed school supplies when the new school year starts on Aug. 28 as they spearhead the second annual “Stuff the Bus” drive.

Through Aug. 15, when the “Stuff It” event will be held, businesses at the mall are collecting backpacks and school supplies which will then be distributed to students through the district’s administrative office, according to Beth Taylor, co-owner of Gourmet Kitchen, which is one of the organizers of the event. Other organizers include Christa Peterson, co-owner of Gourmet Kitchen, Stefanie Kear at The Winery At Wilcox and Sueanne Byrne of Sueanne’s Hair Care.

Last year, more than 200 backpacks plus supplies were collected.

“This year, we are collecting for CenClear Child Services, Pentz Run Youth Center and the DuBois Salvation Army,” said Taylor.

The school supply drive originated last year when the businesses heard there was a huge need in the district for it.

“Last year, we got a lot of donations from local businesses and the community. We are hoping to get the same results this year as well,” Taylor said. “We really need them, with just about 50 backpacks collected so far.”

The project warms the heart of DASD Assistant Superintendent Wendy Benton.

“A backpack of school supplies is greatly appreciated by our students and especially by the teachers who often purchase items on their own for students in need,” said Benton. “The backpack helps the students to feel prepared for the school year and supported by a community that places a strong emphasis on education.”

Benton recalled that in August of 2016, the residents of the DuBois Villages inspired a campaign of kindness throughout the community by donating backpacks full of school supplies to children in need at the DuBois Area School District.

“Their random act of kindness provided backpacks and school supplies for 22 students for the 2016-2017 school year. What made the donation even more special was the personalized note in each backpack encouraging students to do their best and to have a successful school year,” said Benton.

During the summer of 2017, Benton said Sonya Fetterhoff was one of the people instrumental in starting “Stuff the Bus” at the DuBois Mall to promote the initiative.

“Her little idea generated big results for students,” said Benton. “Between the heartfelt generosity of the community, the residents of the DuBois Villages and the employees of Danone WhiteWave, 259 backpacks were distributed to students in need for the 2017-2018 school year. This year we are thrilled to partner again with the Gourmet Kitchen and other businesses.”

The backpacks include supplies such as: pencils, markers, colored pencils, erasers, crayons, paper, glue sticks, notebooks, folders, pens and binders.

Benton said the backpacks are distributed to all four elementary schools, the middle school and the high school. The backpacks are available to any student in need and are located in the clothing closets, main office or in the guidance office.

“Our goal is to provide for students as discreetly as possible. The school district provides basic supplies for use in the classroom. However, it’s nice for students to have their own supplies to take home with them as well as a new backpack,” said Benton.

Boxes are placed in front of businesses in the DuBois Mall so people can drop their items into them. On Aug. 15, from 5-7 p.m., volunteers will be stuffing backpacks, with all kinds of fun, food and entertainment. The public is invited to participate.

“I am often overwhelmed by the generosity of our community and the commitment to providing for our students,” Benton said. “The community as a whole is setting a fine example for our youth. It’s all about kindness. Just keep paying it forward.”

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