Help students get off to a 'Running Start'

If you drove on South Broadway on Friday or Saturday, you probably noticed a school bus parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot. No, it wasn't someone's idea of a low-cost RV. Nor was Wal-Mart being used as the off-site parking lot for a regional softball tournament.

The bus was serving as a drop site for Running Start for School, the United Way of Olmsted County's annual drive to collect and distribute school supplies for low-income families. The idea was to "Stuff the Bus" with backpacks, notebooks, markers, folders, scissors, pencil boxes, highlighters and every little thing a student needs to feel ready for that first day of school.

Thai Nguyen, the coordinator for Running Start for School, on Monday said that the response was wonderful.

"'Stuff the Bus' was a great success," Nguyen said. "We got amazing support from the community, and from our many partners like Wal-Mart, Culvers and Cici's pizza. The school bus was full, if you can believe that, and we also received a lot of monetary donations."

If you missed the bus, so to speak, and also haven't had a chance to purchase and bring school supplies to one of the drop-off points that are scattered throughout the county, it's not too late. Nguyen said that because some of the collection sites have already stopped collecting materials, the best idea is to bring supplies directly to the United Way offices.


More than 2,100 students have signed up to receive free school supplies from Running Start for School, and Nguyen said that he hopes that number will rise significantly between now and Aug. 12, which is the deadline to register.

But before those supplies can go out, there's a lot of work to be done — and that's where your help is needed, even if you couldn't afford to donate supplies or money.

"We need a lot of volunteers for sorting the supplies and assembling the school kits," Nguyen said. "We'll start that process on Wednesday." Backpacks filled with supplies will be distributed Aug. 23-24.

Who among us doesn't remember the excitement of that first day of school, of filling a desk with brand-new crayons, chunk erasers and perhaps even a Trapper Keeper?

There are thousands of students in Olmsted County who could use your help to make sure they have that same experience.


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