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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The 2021 Stuff the Bus school supplies drive officially kicked off Thursday as the San Diego County Office of Education and San Diego County Credit Union team up for the seventh straight year to help the region’s students who are experiencing homelessness.

More than 20,000 school-age children in San Diego County have been identified as homeless, according to county data, and this population has been especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. SDCOE and SDCCU — along with iHeartMedia, Ralphs and Food 4 Less grocery stores — aim to collect thousands of dollars in online and in-store donations to purchase much-needed pencils, pens, binders, crayons, backpacks and more during the campaign. A portion of donations will also assist San Diego Youth Services in providing meals for homeless youth through its various food programs.

“This year, in particular, our students are going to have a lot of needs for tangible items like supplies, but also for relational supports to help adjust to being back to school and handling the social and emotional challenges resulting from the pandemic,” said Susie Terry, coordinator for SDCOE’s Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services. “Gathering supplies through the Stuff the Bus campaign is just one of the ways we can help districts, students and families during this time so they have one less thing to worry about as the new school year approaches.”

This year’s Stuff the Bus campaign will be collecting monetary donations online or in-store at any Ralphs or Food 4 Less grocery store in the county. Donations are welcome in any amount, with $25 covering the cost of a backpack and supplies for a secondary-age student.

The campaign, which runs throughout July, also partners with local iHeartMedia radio stations Star 94.1, JAM’N 95.7 and Channel 93.3 for special appearances and live interviews.

In 2020, the Stuff the Bus campaign raised more than $130,000 in monetary donations to help purchase more than 7,700 backpacks filled with supplies for San Diego County students.

“Year after year, the local community shows kindness and generosity during this campaign and we could not be more grateful,” said Paul Gothold, San Diego County superintendent of schools. “As we emerge from this pandemic, our students and families continue to face many challenges. Even the smallest of donations can make a big impact for some of our most vulnerable students.”

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