The United Way of Greater Nashville is in the midst of its 13th consecutive Stuff the Bus school supply collection drive.

Running through June, the campaign focuses on providing elementary students in the Metropolitan Nashville area with school supplies.

A 13-year streak of this cause is admirable and one that should only be encouraged to continue.

But unfortunately, it’s not the only streak.

This marks the second consecutive year that Stuff the Bus is completely online due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In previous years, United Way and Nashville citizens would unite in support of this cause during live events, raising awareness and contributing to these students at locations such as Nissan Stadium.

Now, donations and purchasing supplies must be done online through the United Way’s website.

Erica Mitchell, executive vice president and chief community impact officer for United Way, shared that not being able to see communities coming together possibly played into the campaign’s low numbers in 2020 compared to the year prior.

“I think there is a lot to the visual impact of seeing large numbers of people coming out together to be in support of one another,” she said. “You’re not able to generate as much excitement when you’re not in person. You don’t have the camaraderie and the competition between companies to bring out volunteers to be a part of this.”

Stuff the Bus provided more than 15,000 students with school supplies in 2019.

In 2020, that number dropped to 10,500.

The transition has been challenging since turning to an all-online campaign, but Mitchell is confident this year’s virtual event will unite the communities in Nashville.

“Since people have participated with us virtually in the past, we’re hopeful they are accustomed and they will participate all the more this year,” she says. “We’re hoping to get those numbers up this year.”

While Mitchell would love to see more support in hopes of seeing the campaign reach its goal of 3,350 online items, she does not want her gratitude to go unnoticed.

“We are extremely grateful that we were still able to provide a large number of students with supplies last year,” said Mitchell. “We’re really looking forward to having a successful campaign this year,” she later added.

With just under three weeks to go, Stuff the Bus has reached approximately 30% of its goal.

For additional information regarding Stuff the Bus or to provide supplies for a student and donate, visit United Way’s website at unitedwaygreaternashville.org/stuffthebus.

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