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Back to School

The Douglas County Chamber of Commerce and the United Way are joining forces to send well-supplied kids back to school this fall. The two organizations announced this morning a partnership to provide school children throughout the county with the...

The Douglas County Chamber of Commerce and the United Way are joining forces to send well-supplied kids back to school this fall.

The two organizations announced this morning a partnership to provide school children throughout the county with the basic supplies needed in the classroom. With the help of area residents and businesses the organizations plan to "Stuff the Bus" with pencils, pens, markers, crayons, glue, backpacks and paper to hand out to children.

The program expands efforts by the Superior Housing Authority and Bayside Baptist Church, which have both been providing school supplies to children in Superior for years.

Bayside Baptist has collected supplies from its parishioners for the past nine years. With the help of Zion Lutheran Church parishioners, Bayside Baptist collected supplies for 180 children and Superior elementary schools last fall.

Teachers always send thank you letters because kids show up to school without the supplies they need and the donations help fill those gaps, said Debbie Love, school supply donation coordinator.

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Local families need help because school expenses can be devastating for some families, she said.

The Superior Housing Authority provides supplies to kids through grants and donations. Its program started in 2000 and served 78 children in 2006, said Rhonda Berg, Housing Authority school supply coordinator. The housing authority program also serves children throughout the year who are referred to its School Resource Center.

Both organizations plan to partner with Stuff the Bus this year.

"I think it's great. I can't wait to see it. I know the need is out there," Berg said. "It seems the cost of school supplies raises every year."

Stuff the Bus is open to all school children in Douglas County.

Students from Superior, Maple, Solon Springs school districts and those attending Maranatha and Cathedral schools, and Douglas County students attending Northwood School are eligible for school supplies, said Kathleen Madsen, United Way executive director.

Families throughout the county fall through the cracks and can't afford all the school supplies they need. This will help all the county's children, she said.

Stuff the Bus won't be able to supply everything a student needs for school, but it will provide the basics, said Dave Minor, chamber president. "(It's a) supplement so parents can provide the rest," he said.

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The chamber and United Way announced the program this morning to begin the collection process. This week, organizers are targeting local businesses, nonprofits and faith communities for donations.

Douglas County residents can donate through participating organizations or wait to "Stuff the Bus" Aug. 6-7 when it visits the Wal-Mart and Kmart parking lots.

Sometime next week, Wal-Mart also will offer an in-store donation bin and kiosk listing which items are most needed.

The supplies will be distributed to students Aug. 22-23 at Superior Middle School.

Stuff the Bus organizers have already spoke with local businesses that are eager to help, Minor said.

Businesses buy many of the supplies in bulk for their own uses and some are willing to order a few extra pens, folders and erasers for donations, he said. Minor estimates Stuff the Bus could reach as many as 600 to 1,000 school children in the county -- more than doubling the efforts of the housing authority and Bayside Baptist.

"If we did 600, I'd be ecstatic," he said.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail akurth@superiortelegram.com .

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