Lakota families help ‘Stuff the Bus’ in a huge way

Record donations will help fill Reach Out Lakota pantry.

Lakota school officials are happy to report some overly crowded buses this fall, overflowing not with students but donated food and other basic items for a local pantry serving needy families.

The school system’s annual “Stuff the Bus” campaign did just that at a record level with donations up 45% over last year’s fall campaign, Lakota officials said.

Timing of the bounty collected by many of Lakota’s 17,200 students comes as Reach Out Lakota’s pantry was also seeing record demand by low-income families in both West Chester and Liberty townships, which comprise the school district.

Independence Elementary led the charge among Lakota’s 24 school buildings this year, collecting more than 3,300 donations. Leaders from both Lakota and Reach Out Lakota recently presented the lead students from the school with a special trophy that goes to the top school each year.

“Reach Out Lakota is such a tremendous partner that does so much for our families and we are glad to keep this tradition alive as long as there is a need,” said Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller, in a released statement.

“An added bonus is that this continues to be a great learning opportunity at all grade levels about the importance of community service and civic leadership,” said Miller.

Lakota’s Stuff the Bus is the largest annual collection for the primary relief organization for families in the school system.

It comes during its busiest month of the year and at a time when the shelves are emptying out. In 2021, the organization gave out over 230,000 meals to nearly 10,000 individuals. That’s the equivalent of almost 277,000 pounds of food valued at over $350,000.

“The generosity of our community never ceases to amaze me,” said Reach Out Lakota CEO and executive director Scott Stephens, noting that the organization has served about 1,700 more household members through September 2022 than the same time period last year.

“I know that everyone is dealing with higher food costs and even so, the Stuff the Bus collection knocked it out of the park once again,” said Stephens.

Lakota officials said: “With student leadership groups at the helm of most schools’ collections and campaigns, students were the driving force behind the drive’s overall success. Particularly in the younger grade levels, the drive became an extension of their classroom learning.”

At Wyandot Early Childhood School, for example, following a recent unit studies lesson all about communities and needs versus wants, second grade teacher Sheila Grammer challenged her students to brainstorm all the different ways they could help their community. In the end, her class committed to “convince the Wyandot community to give food to Reach Out Lakota,” as written on a poster hanging front and center in her classroom.

“They learned so much through this process,” Grammer said, “including how to help their own community meet its needs and wants.”

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