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San Benito
June 22, 2024

Video: Stuff the Bus organizers tout ‘equity and access’

The Stuff the Bus fundraiser in Hollister was a big success, telling by the number of people who came out to get complimentary backpacks and school supplies.

The event was Saturday morning in the Target parking lot. Organizers like San Benito County Superintendent Krystal Lomanto and United Way of San Benito County Coordinator Vicki Fortino were ecstatic at the turnout and the effort from many volunteers.

“We had probably 200 volunteers or more,” Fortino said. “This parking lot was full.”

Lomanto said at least 1,500 people showed up for backpacks. Hollister Rotary gave out around 1,000 hot dogs, and not all families took the food.

United Way and the education office partner on the event to help students be prepared and to even the playing field, no matter the students’ economic background.

“It’s a United Way initiative to help kids start school prepared. We believe if kids start school prepared, it helps them be more successful in school and hopefully life.”

Fortino said the event is organized so that students aren’t identified as having a certain backpack. This was the fifth year for the event.

“It’s growing every year,” Lomanto said. “The San Benito County Office of Ed is excited to team with United Way because there is a need, and it’s about equity and access. If kids start out without access to materials, then they start their first day without access to materials.”

Lomanto called it “heartwarming” for kids to have that access to supplies. Fortino said there were three full truckloads of supplies. She mentioned Hazel Hawkins Hospital had one full truckload alone. Pacific Scientific and Earthbound Farm both contributed to those trucks as well.

“It was crazy. We raised over $17,000, which is what we used to purchase from our vendor,” Fortino said.

Lomanto thanked the community for supporting the effort. An array of local groups came out to help such as Girl Scouts, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the high school cross-country team and more.

“Because if we have a strong educational system, we have a strong community.”