From the Salvation Army of Lee County

When a new school year started last August, SanLee Middle School’s Tina Harrington decided to use her own money to buy 1,000 pencils for her 6th graders — and any other students who might need them.

Harrington, a 19-year teaching veteran and the school’s reigning Teacher of the Year, says the supply was exhausted before Christmas.

As were 2,000 sheets of paper she had on hand — all claimed by students who didn’t have enough of their own supplies.

“Teachers see that students need common school supplies such as pencils and paper on a daily basis,” said Harrington, who also serves as the president of SanLee’s parent-teacher organization. “Teachers understand that families have hardships and that their resources may be limited. But the battle of school supplies needs cannot be a barrier to student learning.”

To provide support, the Salvation Army of Lee County will team with Walmart and Lee County Schools for a “Stuff the Bus” project — setting up at Sanford’s Walmart location at 3310 S. Horner Blvd from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 22, to accept donations of school supplies. Supplies can be purchased at Walmart or brought to the location (look for the school bus), where volunteers will provide assistance to those making donations.

Among the most needed items: pencils, lined paper, erasers, crayons, colored pencils, highlighters, glue sticks and non-Bluetooth earbuds or headphones.

“Every classroom teacher needs supplies to help our kids learn in the classroom,” said Jinger Gibson, the chair of the Salvation Army’s advisory council in Lee County. “Please consider donating needed school supplies. Your support will help ensure our kids succeed this upcoming school year.”

Meg Moss, the Salvation Army’s Service Center Director, said more than 15 percent of Lee County residents live in poverty. With a new school year on the horizon, that lack of resources impacts some families’ ability to properly and adequately prepare children with supplies necessary for arriving in class each day ready for engaged learning.

“As a mother of four students in the Lee County School System, each year I see children coming into school on the first day with nothing in their hand except a pencil,” Moss said. “Teachers are often left with the bill to supply the needs of their students.”

Items donated on July 22 will first be distributed to teachers who participate in optional teacher training. Remaining supplies will be distributed among first-year teachers for their classrooms.

Dr. Chris Dossenbach, Lee County Schools’ interim superintendent, said “Stuff the Bus” efforts had been a tradition in Lee County for years, and thanked the Salvation Army for bringing the vital school supply drive back.

“We have a generous community, and projects like this help our families focus on starting school ready to learn, instead of having to worry about stretching tight budgets even further to purchase school supplies,” he said. “The Salvation Army is an incredible asset to our community and we’re extremely grateful for their ongoing partnership with Lee County Schools.”

Shopping for back-to-school supplies is often an enjoyable rite of passage for many of families. But Dr. Johnnye Waller, LCS’ assistant superintendent for auxiliary and student services, said for too many families, back-to-school time is a reminder funds for supplies are limited and priorities have to be made.

“Our student support staff works hard throughout the year to help families find resources to meet basic needs — and school supplies are a top priority,” Waller said. “We are thrilled the Salvation Army is reviving the ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign. It’s just another example of their support that we rely on to help our students.”

“This event is about reminding Lee County residents that these are collectively all of our children, students, teachers and our schools,” said Robin Saenz, the Salvation Army’s Social Services Program Manager. “The Salvation Army is doing everything we can to support them.”

Those who’d like to donate but can’t make it to Walmart on Saturday can easily support the “stuff the bus” effort by shopping online at, the project’s “wish list” on Amazon.

“We appreciate the Salvation Army backing our students so they can start out the school year ready to learn,” Harrington said. “Any school supply that is donated creates an opportunity for learning.”