In a Year of Need, Huntington and United Ways Return with ‘Stuff the Bus’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As schools get ready for the start of a new academic year and prepare for students to be back in classrooms, Huntington Bank and local United Way chapters brought back the Stuff the Bus campaign for an 11th year to provide students in need with necessary supplies.

“I can’t imagine having to go to school and not being properly prepared with a backpack or the other things you need for an education. This is a great opportunity for us to give back,” said William Shivers, the regional president for Huntington Bank. “I have two grandkids, one of them who started kindergarten last year when it was remote. I’m looking forward to seeing [students] in the classrooms, building that camaraderie and friendship that we all had when we were kids.”

This year, Huntington is providing about 600 backpacks that will be filled with the supplies young students need to begin the school year. The backpacks will then be delivered to students in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, as well as Mercer County, Pa. The United Way branches in each county will facilitate deliveries.

While the number of backpacks being handed out is down from previous Stuff the Bus programs, any aid is helpful, said Ginny Pasha, president of the United Way of Trumbull County.

“The support of Huntington with these backpacks, regardless of the number, is very important. There’s so much uncertainty with school starting this year, but one thing that remains absolutely certain is that kids will need backpacks and supplies,” she said. “It’s an important part of getting kids ready to go back to school, regardless of what that school looks like.”

In its most recent Backpack Index, released in 2019, Huntington Bank estimated the cost of fully equipping elementary students with supplies, technology and extracurricular fees is around $1,000, a figure that rises to nearly $1,700 for high school students.

“It’s a big number for families who, this year more than ever, might be struggling to make ends meet,” Pasha said. “The needs are always there, regardless of the year. Getting kids ready for school is always a challenge.”

Every year, added United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley President Bob Hannon, the agency gets calls from educators about if the Stuff the Bus program will be making its return.

“That tells me Stuff the Bus is impactful,” he said. “For these young students to walk in on the first day with backpacks and pencils and tablets is huge. For some of us, that’s a given, but not all of us are blessed to have a family that can provide that. There are kids who go to school with nothing and it’s important for them to have supplies on that first day.”

Pictured: At the kickoff of this year’s Stuff the Bus program are United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley President Bob Hannon and director of donor relations Tina Chance; Huntington Bank regional marketing and communications manager Sandy Upperman; United Way of Trumbull County President Ginny Pasha; United Way of Northern Columbiana County President George Hayes; and Huntington Bank Regional President William Shivers.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.