United Way of Hernando County's Stuff the Bus takes virtual detour

The United Way of Hernando County is in its 14th year of Stuff the Bus to collect school supplies. But this year, because of the novel coronavirus, Stuff the Bus has gone virtual.

BROOKSVILLE — The United Way of Hernando County is running its 14th annual Stuff the Bus as a virtual event throughout the month of July.

United Way has transitioned this communitywide event to an online platform allowing donors the opportunity to still purchase school supplies for Hernando classrooms, according to a press release.

Those who support the event each year can shop for essential supplies, like pencils, glue sticks, paper, crayons, etc., online and have those purchases delivered directly to United Way of Hernando County. There will also be an option to donate gift cards, allowing United Way to “do the shopping for you.”

This is how the virtual collection works:

1. Shop now through the end of July at www.Roonga.com/StuffTheBusHernando.

2. In August, United Way will receive a shipment of purchased items.

3. Based on the quantities received, each Hernando school will receive a personal delivery from United Way with appropriate supplies for grade levels.

4. When school begins, teachers will have the opportunity to safely stock up their classrooms.

“Now more than ever, local classrooms will need the community’s help,” said Angie B. Walasek, United Way of Hernando County’s executive director.

United Way received 150 teacher survey responses that discussed safety precautions, volunteer abilities, and options for this anticipated event, now in its 14th year. Some were still willing to participate, but many had concerns about social distancing, wearing masks in the Florida heat, etc.

“The Stuff the Bus effort fills a gap by providing tools necessary for children who may come to school unprepared, classrooms who need additional supplies, and for teachers who have exhausted resources and their personal budget; we simply can’t not have it,” said Walasak. “United Way is determined to still help our schools, so we made it even easier to participate at the click of a button. There is so much uncertainty surrounding this pandemic that we want to be prepared for when classrooms are back in session whether that be at the end of the summer or late fall.”

To address safety precautions and still assist school children, this creative alternative was out in place. The United Way mission is to “mobilize resources and continue to support Hernando schools.”

The United Way office will have a drop box as well as other participating Hernando Publix and Walmart stores during the month of July to collect Stuff the Bus donations.

Each year, Stuff the Bus brings the community together to support the collection and distribution of supplies to those who benefit. While no physical collection will happen as a precaution to support a healthy community, the event will still go on as planned.

Last year, 721 total hours were logged by volunteers who collected 8,306 pounds of supplies which stocked more than 158 classrooms in 23 schools.

“It’s truly amazing to work behind the scenes of such a large event,” said Walasek. “Being able to hand pack school supplies for local classrooms knowing the impact it will have on the children’s education, makes this event all worth it.”