The giant yellow school bus near Toys “R” Us in Norton Shores is there for a reason—to remind shoppers to pick up some extra items during their back-to-school shopping. Located on the corner of Harvey Street and Sternberg Road, Toys “R” Us is partnering with the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District to collect school supplies for over 600 homeless students throughout Muskegon County. The collection ends September 11.
“There are a variety of reasons why students are homeless in our county,” said MAISD Superintendent John Severson. “Certainly these families are experiencing poverty. This causes children to be displaced with their entire families, without housing due to eviction, or even ‘couch surfing’ from home to home with friends or family. These children span a wide age range—from newborn to teen, and they need our help,” he added.
According to J. Alex Lazo, Youth Advocacy Coordinator for Muskegon Public Schools, an unstable living environment can impede a child’s education. “School supplies, toys, gifts, and hygiene items are donated every year through our countywide consortium and are distributed to schools across the county for our youth who are experiencing homelessness. These resources help youth whose families are transitioning into stable housing to maintain positive health behaviors and practice self-care. This helps students to continue to do well academically,” said Lazo.
Lazo said one of the most critical needs is a sturdy backpack. The backpack provides a sense of ownership and pride by these students. Other items needed include hygiene items like deodorant, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene products, soap and shampoo. Highlighters, pens, pencils, crayons, glue, scissors, markers, folders, binders, notebooks, loose leaf paper and other more traditional school supplies are needed as well. Gloves, hats, and boots are also in high demand during the winter months.
“I can’t thank our community enough for giving to the Stuff the Bus campaign. These donations will allow students to continue to focus on learning, and give schools the tools needed to provide quality instruction for years to come,” said Lazo.