PROVIDING BACK-TO-SCHOOL SUPPLIES THROUGH THE GENERATIONS
Pictured: Capt. Jeanette Jensen's son, Joseph
The Salvation Army Midland Division’s Capt. Jeanette Jensen, as she experienced in the previous generation, is bringing Stuff the Bus to her family, introducing her children to the back-to-school activity that collects school supplies for kids in need.
“I want to raise my children to be the next generation of help,” said Capt. Jeanette, whose parents were Salvation Army officers during her childhood. “If I can give them pride, offering a smile and giving, another child to a reason to smile, then I’m going to do it. Put an apron and a Shield on them and give them a job that makes them feel better about themselves and feel good about making other people feel good.”
Stuff the Bus is an annual Salvation Army fundraising effort to provide school supplies and classroom basics for kids going back to school. It takes place Aug. 6 – 8 and is a precursor to the school year’s start in coming weeks.
Walmart partners with The Salvation Army for Stuff the Bus, as donation receptacles at store doors remind Walmart shoppers as they enter the store that they have an option to help shop for back-to-school students, dropping off supplies on the walk back to the car.
After being introduced to Stuff the Bus as a child, Capt. Jensen, officer and pastor of the Salvation Army Maplewood corps, now views it from the other side as a caregiver to vulnerable children who don’t have access to school supplies.
“I’ve had over 30 years of providing assistance, standing outside and collecting school supplies to fill as many seats in that yellow school bus as humanly possible,” she said.
“As an adult, you really get the heartbreaking aspect of all this,” Capt. Jensen said. “In light of COVID-19, we know that if our community can’t step up on behalf of our children then our children will go without. So as an adult, I think there’s an even bigger urgency. It’s not just fun anymore. This is serious work, in order to provide for the next generation.”
The lasting effects of COVID-19 have sent more American families into poverty than in previous decades. Kids in poverty for half their lives are more likely to remain in poverty for the rest of their lives, research shows. More than 60% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
“Before COVID, we had a lot of volunteers that would stand at doors,” Capt. Jensen said, of Stuff the Bus. “We would give little handout slips, saying, ‘We’re collecting school supplies, and anything you can give would be appreciated.’ On their way out, they would hand us the bags, which we immediately put into the school bus. Some days, we were so hot we had to bring a cooler with ice packs, so the crayons wouldn’t melt. But it was worth it. It was so worth it.”
In addition to Stuff the Bus, The Salvation Army provides day camp, after-school services, and extracurricular activities for kids. Combatting generational poverty with life lessons and skills is core to The Salvation Army’s mission.
Participating Walmart stores can be found throughout the region and nation to make Stuff the Bus donations.
“As long as you tell us ‘Stuff the Bus,’ it is guaranteed 100% to go to that event’s outcome,” Capt. Jensen said. “Especially monetary donations will be restricted to buying items to that end.”