Bobby Hunton has helped WDNS-FM D93 personality Tony Rose with the Stuff the Bus school-supply drive since its inception 11 years ago.
"He wanted to do a publicity-type stunt with (a different) radio station. We had a couple of chairs. We had one bus and no air conditioner," Hunton said Thursday as he took a brief break in the shade during the opening day of Stuff the Bus. "We had our wives out here and we waved down people to let them know what we were doing."
The first year garnered 2,400 pounds of school supplies, Hunton said.
"We wondered what we could do if we got serious about it," he said.
The drive has grown into a premier event in southcentral Kentucky. Last year, Stuff the Bus collected more than 15 tons of school supplies that were gone by Christmas, Rose said. The supplies go to more than 10 counties and 20 after-school programs.
"When people bring in school supplies they are making sure a child has high self-esteem and is connected with the teacher and classmates. It helps cut down on bullying," he said. "Spending $20 at Wal-Mart can literally change the playing field for that child. It can turn into thousands of dollars worth of value."
The 2016 Stuff the Bus drive will continue through Monday morning at Bluegrass Cellular on Campbell Lane. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jamie Dobbs of the Daily News will conduct a Zumba class at the site for $5 a person. The Daily News and Stanley Steamer will contribute an extra $10 for up to 40 men who might participate in the event. The Daily News will pick up the first 20 and Stanley will get the second 20.
There is a high demand for composition notebooks, crayons, one-inch binders, two-pocket/three-prong folders and glue sticks. Those who want to make a monetary donation can write a check to Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive.
Schools can't always give kids everything they need to make a good start for the school year, Rose said.
"People say a lot of times schools provide for kids, but they can only do so much because of budget cuts," he said. "This allows schools to focus on other projects to make the school better."
Jordan Reed of Bowling Green is a recipient of a scholarship that is a result of a partnership between Stuff the Bus, Western Kentucky University and the College Heights Foundation. A 2016 Greenwood High School graduate, she will do joint admission with Southern Kentucky Community and Technical College and WKU. She counted and helped check in school supplies before saying how appreciative she was of the scholarship and how excited she was to be helping out with Stuff the Bus.
"It made going to college real. It was a very surreal moment," she said of how she felt when she found out she got the scholarship. "I feel proud, touched and honored to receive this from them. I feel like they may see something in me I may not see in myself. It gives me more encouragement to do what I want to do."
Reed was impressed with the Stuff the Bus volunteers.
"The people who do this are amazing. These people care. They put their all into it," she said. "I like being able to see behind the scenes. This makes me want to put back into the community. I'm going to carry a part of this with me forever."
Hunton said he saw firsthand what students needed in school supplies when he was a student at the old Rockfield school.
"I saw how teachers had to take their own money to buy school supplies for the kids," he said. "They don't make enough money to do what they do."
Hunton enjoys being a part of the Stuff the Bus crew each year.
"It's like going to visit your family for a couple of weeks, but you do it all in one weekend," he said. "We really believe in the cause. That's the biggest thing."
– Follow features reporter Alyssa Harvey on Twitter @bgdnfeatures or visit bgdailynews.com.