‘Fill the Bus’ initiative provides materials for Washington County students – St. George News

Street. George – Back to school requires a lot of things: backpacks, school supplies, headphones, USB cables, and the like. For some families in Washington County, getting the necessary materials can be a real difficulty.

Curtis Whitehead of Findlay Subaru collects donated school supplies, St. George, Utah, August 2022 | Photography by Adele Park, St. George’s News

That’s why a local auto dealership and Canyon Media are stepping in to help with the “Fill the Bus” initiative.

Findlay Subaru purchased an old bus from the Washington County School District, which is filled with school supplies donated by community members. From there, the Washington County School District Foundation says it will work to ensure that every student has what they need to learn and grow this semester.

Each year, teachers donate an estimated $750 of their own money to purchase supplies for their classrooms. Findlay Subaru’s general manager, Curtis Whitehead, hopes the “Fill the Bus” program will reduce these expenses for teachers.

Whitehead said he was impressed with the overwhelming response from the community so far. Over 140 backpacks were delivered with school supplies and other items at the dealership. Some local individuals and businesses also apply with additional cash contributions and gift cards.

“It was a great opportunity for people who wanted to jump in and help,” Whitehead said. “It’s really humbling how willing they are to help and give back.”

Semester credit

As part of her “Subaru Loves Learning” program, Findlay Subaru also sponsors six classes at Dixie Middle School. Findlay’s director of automotive marketing Karyn Keanaaina said $3,000 worth of school supplies are being delivered in boxes that can eventually be turned into butterfly gardens.

“There’s wax paper lined up inside, and once they take out the supplies, there’s a way to make little planter boxes,” Keanaaina said. “There’s even a little lesson they give the teacher so they can teach them how butterflies grow.”

Keanaaina said the materials for the “Adopt a Classroom” program are paid for by Subaru and are separate from the local and unique “Fill the Bus” initiative of the St.

Karen Kinaina with a Findlay Subaru School Supply Box, St. George, Utah, August 2022 | Adele Park’s photo

“They really want us to be involved with our community,” Keanaaina said. “We are more than happy to contribute to it.”

Helping homeless students

Donations from Fill the Bus and Adopt a Classroom couldn’t have come at a better time. An estimated 700 students in Washington County were identified as homeless last year. The current housing crisis probably means that this number has not improved. This is a societal problem, said Mike Carr, support services coordinator for at-risk and homeless students in the Washington County School District.

“Any of us can become homeless at any time,” Carr said. “If you have an injury or illness that makes you unable to work, you fall behind in paying your bills very quickly.”

It’s important to help children dealing with homelessness feel welcome and included in the classroom, Carr said. This means helping these students adjust by getting the things they need for school.

“We also help children with hygiene products and clothes so they can look and feel their best,” Carr said.

Carr said free food and other compliments are offered to homeless students to ensure they have the optimal conditions to succeed in school.

Curtis Whitehead, Diane Tyler, Karen Kenina and Mike Carr with supplies donated to the Washington County Educational Foundation, St. George, Utah, August 2022 | Photography by Adele Park, St. George’s News

“A student with homelessness can get breakfast and lunch for free,” Carr said. “They can waive their fees and they can register without the normal things like birth certificates and photo records. These are things we can work on after they register.”

To facilitate the growing needs in Washington County, the Counselor’s Cabinet has been established in the Washington County Educational Foundation’s office. Counselors can pick up supplies from this locker and distribute them discreetly to students in need.

If the public wants to help, there is a constant demand for school supplies. In addition, gift cards are appreciated for things like shoes, socks, underwear, food, or even entertainment places that families usually can’t visit because of the cost, officials said.

Findlay Subaru will continue to serve as a delivery site for back-to-school donations. Financial contributions can be made through the Washington County Foundation for Education website at https://washk12.org/foundation/donate.

Copyright St. George’s News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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