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Students are more successful when they come to class prepared, but for some needy children in this area, that wouldn't be possible without Stuff the Bus.

The program is taking donations of money and school supplies as it prepares to give away 1,800 backpacks to needy children at the beginning of school next year.

"The Stuff the Bus program was started to help children who may be underprivileged and whose parents don't have the funds or the means to purchase school supplies for them," said Rephonnie Roberts, coordinator for Stuff the Bus. "The thought behind it was that every child needs to have adequate supplies to have a good start to the school year. So the foundation behind it was just to make sure those children who may fall behind the curve financially have the same opportunity as others."

Stuff the Bus has changed its tactics for raising money this year. In the past, the organization's volunteers had fundraisers at places like Sonic or Walmart, where they stood outside collecting donations. But this year they have been reaching out to local businesses instead.

"So far, we've had a good response," Roberts said. "It's good to have a community who knows that children don't choose not to have the needed supplies. Our community has given us a lot of support."

Roberts estimates buying the backpacks and the items to go in them will have a price tag between $19,000 and $20,000 and they haven't raised enough money yet.

"We are always welcoming donations whether it's school supplies or financial donations," she said.

There are also donation bins at area some area businesses where people can donate supplied.

Stuff the Bus will have a fundraiser at the Texarkana Twins game June 22.

"They will give us a portion of the tickets sold and if anyone wants to bring supplies, we'll have a box set up to collect supplies and financial donations," Roberts said.

Volunteers will start putting the backpacks together in mid-July and will have the task completed by the second week of August.

The effort has a far-reaching effect on the kids that are helped.

"We've heard from counselors that when a child goes into a school year knowing they have the equipment they need they perform better. It takes away the worry and the stress of not having the needed supplies," she said.

Stuff the Bus helps students in 16 schools districts in Texarkana and the surrounding areas.

To make a donation call Roberts at 903-949-8102 or call the United Way of Greater Texarkana at 903-794-3105.

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