This week volunteers in the Helena area are spending their days collecting school supplies for the Angel Fund's annual Stuff the Bus campaign.
For the past 13 years, the Angel Fund has collected a bus load of school supplies leading up to the new school year. These supplies are distributed through the schools to students in need. Nick Radley, Angel Fund chairman and principal at Four Georgians Elementary School, said the greater Angel Fund nonprofit is celebrating 30 years this year.
"I've been in the district for about 10 years," Radley said. "I was at Bryant Elementary School for about five years where I really got to see the impact of the Angel Fund on the district."
It was this time at Bryant that made Radley want to get involved with the Angel Fund. As time went on, he gradually got more involved with the fund and changed positions in the district. However, he is still a boots-on-the-ground kind of guy and spent all Wednesday morning helping his fellow volunteers stuff the bus. Radley said he believes Angel Fund plays a major role in the school community in Helena.
"What we all want as educators is everyone to start school on level ground," Radley said. "This goes a long way to making kids feel comfortable."
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By Wednesday, halfway through the week-long pickup cycle, the bus was already starting to fill up. However, many of the "biggest hauls" were being saved for Thursday and Friday. Sandy Hunt, a bus driver who has driven the stuffed bus seven years running, said in previous years she has sometimes had to make a drop-off by the halfway mark. However, this year the bus was a little over half full late Wednesday morning. When asked why she has volunteered so many years in a row, Hunt said, "Have you ever seen children's faces when they get something their parents couldn't afford? It makes me want to cry every time."
Superintendent Tyler Ream also spent his morning helping stuff the bus. He was surprised by how much they had collected by Wednesday, and said he hopes supplies are to the roof come Friday.
"This is fun," Ream said. "You get to meet all sorts of folks who do amazing things for kids."
When asked, Ream said he would definitely be volunteering again next year.
The supplies from Stuff the Bus will be distributed to area schools starting with C.R. Anderson Middle School this Saturday. To donate to Stuff the Bus, find a preferred location on the list of collection sites at http://www.angelfundhelena.org/ and see when the bus will arrive at that location. For information on how to access the supplies, contact the school's administrator or contact Angel Fund directly by calling Mary Anderson at 406-324-2763 or Janet Riis at 406-447-5423.