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Stuff for school: Niagara Lions coordinate gift campaign for students in need

The Niagara Lions Club will host its annual “Stuff the Bus” event from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, in the parking lot of the Northwoods IGA in Niagara, Wis. From left, Violet Butler, Lexi Johnston and Sydney Swanson start loading the bus with school supplies. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

NIAGARA, Wis. — It’s almost time to “Stuff the Bus.”

With the start of the new school year right around the corner, the Niagara Lions Club once again has joined the state Lions organization for its annual campaign to collect school supplies to be distributed to students in need.

The “Stuff the Bus” collection will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, in the parking lot of the Northwoods IGA in Niagara.

As in the past, cash donations will be accepted as well.

Niagara kindergarten teacher Betsy Shampo will use the funds raised purchase items the school will need for the upcoming year.

“I’ve been teaching for 34 years; we aren’t sure what this school year is going to look like,” Shampo said. “I have been doing a lot of research and talking with others, including Mr. Burklund, because right now kids won’t be able to share toys.”

Shampo said she plans to use some of the funds to buy bleach, along with mesh bags so teachers can clean their materials for the next day.

“It’s going to be a lot of teacher prep work,” Shampo said.

Items that can be donated include spiral notebooks; loose-leaf notebook paper; pocket folders; No. 2 pencils; colored pencils; ballpoint pens; markers of all kinds, including Sharpies; anti-bacterial wipes; baby wipes; three-ring binders; compasses; crayons; facial tissue; glue sticks; paper towels; pink erasers; rulers; scissors; Elmer’s white, washable school glue; small staplers and staples; white-out; and resealable bags in various sizes.

All supplies collected here will go to Niagara students only.

Over the past several years the Niagara Lions has joined with 100 other Lions Clubs in a statewide efforts to collect school supplies for children in their communities.

“Last year, we had a great response from the community as we collected at least 14 large boxes of assorted school supplies and an additional number of backpacks for kids,” Niagara Lions President Gordon Behnke said.

In addition, the club received $700 in cash donations teachers used to purchase additional needed school supplies.

“I thank Betsy Shampo and other Niagara teachers who have assisted the effort and have provided the Lions with information about what items would be especially useful this year,” Behnke said.

“The ‘Stuff the Bus’ is amazing — the Lions Club does great stuff for us,” Shampo said. “We always get a great turnout.”

In recent school years, about 43.3% of Wisconsin students were eligible due to low family incomes for free or reduced-price lunches; in some districts, more than 80% qualified. In Niagara, nearly 1 in 2 students qualified.

With the average cost of sending a child to school now exceeding $625 per child, which included nearly $100 for school supplies, the cost of providing the necessities to each child has become more difficult for many families, particularly those with single parents.

“As a result, Lions throughout Wisconsin are trying to help and ask local citizens to donate school supplies,” Behnke said.

In recent years, Wisconsin Lions collected school supplies with an estimated value of nearly a half-million dollars. Over the six years Lions have sponsored “Stuff the Bus,” nearly $1.9 million in school supplies has been collected and donated to Wisconsin school children.

“Your support of this year’s project will be greatly appreciated,” Behnke said.

The Niagara School District will not be able to have an open house due to the restrictions, but parents will be able to come in and get whatever they think their child will need for the school year.

“We will have everything set up in the high school commons area,” Shampo said. “Lists will be available that they can consult on what they will need for the year.”

Shampo stresses it’s a tough time right now for a lot of families and they want to do whatever they can to help them out.

To view a complete list of supplies needed by grade level, go to the Niagara School District website at www.niagara.k12.wi.us.

Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 241, or tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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