In a year dominated by the unknowns created by the coronavirus pandemic, even a constant like Stuff the Bus has to adopt a new approach. Such was the case Saturday, when the 15th annual fundraiser and school-supply drive welcomed donors into a safe zone of masks, social distancing and contactless drop-offs.

While there are plenty of unresolved variables about the upcoming academic year, this much is certain: All students should have the privilege of beginning school on equal footing, no matter how disruptive the coronavirus will be to the school routine. The belief in that goal is what motivates the Stuff the Bus Foundation to do whatever it takes to complete its annual mission.

“We had no idea what we were getting ready to walk into, doing an event like this in a pandemic world,” event founder Tony Rose, on-air personality for D93 WDNS-FM, said Saturday at the event site at Bluegrass Cellular on Campbell Lane. “Our mission statement as a foundation is to create a level playing field for all kids on that first day of school, no matter what the first day of school may look like now.

“We don’t know if it is going to be in person, all the way virtual, who knows? To provide the essential tools for whatever that first day is like, that is why we are here today.”

Credit goes to Rose and all involved with Stuff the Bus for rising to meet the challenge of conducting what’s normally a highly tactile and celebratory event in a manner consistent with COVID-19 guidelines. Temperature checks, sanitation practices and options for online and telephone donations were all among the measures taken to ensure this year’s drive would be as successful as possible under the circumstances.

Rose’s initial estimates were that Stuff the Bus collected about $30,000 for scholarships and grants for schools, along with two buses full of supplies – including 15,000 face masks previously donated by Wendy’s of Bowling Green – and nonperishable food.

Although the annual summer collection event is the most visible aspect of Stuff the Bus, the group’s work continues year-round. The coronavirus pandemic surely will pose a few more obstacles in the months ahead, but there’s little reason to expect Rose and the Stuff the Bus organization – or our community at large – to be deterred in the shared pursuit of supporting area students.

“Every single month, the Stuff the Bus Foundation awards thousands of dollars in grants to classrooms and to teachers through our website, stuff,” Rose said Saturday. “In 2019, we awarded $30,000 in grants – take away the pencils and the crayons, just in money and scholarships. This year, today alone, we are going to award $30,000 to kids in classrooms.

“Who knows? By the end of 2020 it could be up to $50,000-$60,000 that we award back to our schools and that is all due to this community. Even during a pandemic, they have joined together to help level the playing field.”

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