Fill the bus with supplies: Local agencies band together to help kids in need get a good start this year

A group of local organizations, businesses and social service agencies are depending on the generosity of local residents to help them fill backpacks with school supplies for students who can’t afford to buy them.

Shoppers will be asked to chip in to support the effort from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Walmart on Columbus’ west side, 2025 Merchants Mile, where a bus will be waiting to be filled with donated school supplies.

The supplies will then by sorted and placed in backpacks by volunteers with the Bartholomew County School Supply Assistance Program, a collaboration of 11 organizations, businesses and agencies who have worked for more than 10 years to provide school supplies to families that would struggle to pay for them.

About 2,100 children are registered so far seeking help with school supplies in the program, which is open to any student in public, parochial or private school in Bartholomew County, said Diane Doup, who does community outreach for the Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, one of the agencies involved in the effort.

About 300 volunteers from the collaborating agencies, businesses and groups work nearly year-round to put the effort together, which begins with registration that opens in May and concludes at the end of summer, and then distribution of supply-filled backpacks at FairOaks Mall in Columbus and in Hope before school begins the first week of August.

In between, the volunteers sponsor fundraisers, coordinate donations, organize recipient lists and school supply needs based on Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. and Flat Rock-Hawcreek’s school supply lists and plan for distribution before school begins.

“It’s a true collaborative effort,” Doup said of the partner agencies, businesses and groups involved in the project. “Everyone contributes in a different way.”

Volunteers pre-pack each kindergarten through Grade 12 applicant’s backpack based on the school supply list and it is as complete as possible based on donations, she said. The volunteers donate more than 3,000 hours in total toward the effort each year, she said.

Saturday’s event is particularly important to the effort, as it is the community’s opportunity to help, Doup said.

Shana Tirey, Walmart store manager, said the Fill the Bus” event is traditionally well attended and shoppers do get a kick out of the opportunity to fill up a bus with school supplies. Columbus Sunrise Rotary members attend to accept donations at the bus at Walmart, she said.

While all the donations made on Saturday to Fill the Bus are appreciated by the recipients, Doup said those donating also benefit from a chance to give back or pay it forward to help others.

“We’ve had families come and they bring their children to explain what they’re doing and why,” she said of the donations. “And we have some recipients who come in and buy a $1 pack of paper just to contribute something to the help they are receiving. And people who have been recipients in the past come in and buy for students who need help now.”

“We do count on these donations,” she said of Saturday’s Fill the Bus effort. “We’re very grateful for the help.”

At a glance

What: Bartholomew County School Supply Assistance Fill the Bus event

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Walmart, 2025 Merchant Mile, on Columbus’ west side

How you can help: Buy items off Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. or Flat Rock-Hawcreek’s school supply list to help students in families who need help in obtaining school supplies for their students.

Program partners

The agencies, businesses and groups collaborating for the Bartholomew County School Supply Assistance Program include:

  • Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
  • Columbus Housing Authority
  • Columbus Sunrise Rotary
  • Community Center of Hope working with Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp.
  • Council for Youth Development
  • Cummins, Inc.
  • Family Self-Sufficiency
  • Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center
  • Sans Souci
  • Su Casa
  • United Way of Bartholomew County, United Way 211 & the Volunteer Action Center.

For more information, call 211 or 812-376-6666.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.