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Kroger shoppers help ‘stuff the bus’
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Krista Valetutto donates school supplies to Dawson County Family Connection’s annual ‘Stuff the Bus’ fundraiser at Kroger July 28. - photo by Jessica Taylor

A bright yellow school bus sat parked in front of Kroger on Saturday, greeting curious shoppers as they emerged for their weekend grocery hauls.

For the second year in a row, Kroger has been the perfect spot for the ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign, according to Dawson County Family Connection Coordinator Nancy Stites.

Family Connection has been collecting school supplies for children in Dawson County in need for over a decade, each year building upon the next, but the ‘Stuff the Bus’ campaign has been particularly successful at the new Kroger location.

“It certainly seems more festive this year,” Stites said as she pointed to decorative balloons donated by Kroger.

Music was playing and the sun was shining July 28 as separate charitable causes barbecuing and selling Coca-Cola products helped bring more people to the bus to make donations.

Shoppers stopped by to take a look at the bus and returned, after checking off their grocery lists inside Kroger, with bags of school supplies.

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Kroger donated colorful balloons to help spruce up the Family Connection donations tent as a way to make the event more festive. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Those who opted out of donating supplies contributed monetary donations, which help Family Connection purchase extra school supplies for those in need.

“I think we’ve probably got more donations both monetary and school supplies this year,” Stites said.

Family Connection Administrator Rebecca Bliss confirmed Monday afternoon that this year, indeed, doubled the amount of donations from last year.

Monetary donations doubled from $436 in 2017 to $825 in 2018, and Bliss stated the supply donation doubled as well.

“All in all, we filled the bus about a third of the way - a Honda sedan 100 percent of the way - an increase from last year,” Bliss said.

New this year was a partnership with Zaxby’s, who were present during the fundraiser, offering those who donated a chance to spin a prize wheel where they could earn anything from a chicken keychain to free food items from the restaurant.

Associated Credit Union had been accepting donations in their lobby for weeks and dropped off their bin full of supplies Saturday, and State Representative Kevin Tanner stopped by to donate as well.

The supplies from the fundraiser will be taken over to the schools where they will be assembled by school social workers into backpacks and distributed to students in need of supplies.

As kids continue coming into schools throughout the year, the supply-filled backpacks will continue to be distributed.

Donations can still be made to Family Connection at their office at 96 Academy Ave., and checks can be payable to Dawson County Family Connection and mailed to P.O. Box 872, Dawsonville, Ga. 30534.

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Due to COVID-19 concerns, the annual Stuff the Bus event will be held virtually this year, with an Amazon wishlist open for local residents to donate and help students in need. - photo by Jessica Taylor