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'Pack the bus' with school supplies (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 10, 2012 at 3:10 a.m.

Victoria resident Gary Thomas stopped by Pack the Bus at H-E-B on Rio Grande to give a donation for families in need of school supplies.

Shanda Griffin has driven school buses for 21 years.

Griffin started working for Victoria school district last October. On Friday, she spent most of her day at H-E-B on Rio Grande working Pack the Bus.

"I think this is a really wonderful event that the community is doing," Griffin said.

Victoria Independent School District and Faith Family Church teamed up about five years ago and made H-E-B their fundraising partner to raise money and collect donations for families struggling to pay for school supplies.

"Backpacks, I believe, are the biggest challenge for parents to get for their children," Griffin said. "Pens, paper and pencils aren't as hard to get."

The fundraising group set up at a table in front of the check-out stations to catch customers on their way out of the grocery store.

Joyce Wheeler, an in-take technician with the school district, has been keeping count of the donations from "Pack the Bus" for the last 10 years.

"It was already started before I started the job," Wheeler said. "It just grew every year and a lot of people have joined us."

As a technician, Wheeler maintains a database of homeless teens attending Victoria public schools.

"It helps them a lot because if you're living in a motel or a shelter that means you don't have any money," Wheeler said. "Plus, when these kids come to us, we also give them clothes."

The families don't need to bring any sort of documentation or proof of income to receive the donated supplies.

"The only questions we ask is if they are homeless or not," Wheeler said. "We're hoping in their hearts that they're honest about it."

Gary Thomas was just leaving the checkout aisle when he decided to hand one of the volunteers some money for the collection.

"It's awesome," Thomas said. "I mean, there's a lot of kids that need school supplies that can't afford them."

Thomas said getting supplies for school when he was a kid wasn't a problem, but he said that's why he felt like contributing.

"It's one less burden they have to worry about," Thomas said.



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