In good times, Wendy’s of Bowling Green has been a friend to many local worthy causes, helping nonprofit organizations with fundraisers and sponsorships.

In these bad times, when the COVID-19 pandemic has altered all our lives, Wendy’s is still very much a friend to causes that make our city a great place to live.

That was never more evident than in the recent announcement that Wendy’s is making a significant and timely donation to the Stuff the Bus Foundation. It could even be a life-saving donation.

Despite its own struggles to keep nearly 100 restaurants across parts of four states open and profitable in the COVID-19 world, Wendy’s has stepped up to make a contribution that Stuff the Bus founder Tony Rose calls “the most timely donation we’ve ever had.”

Wendy’s is purchasing 15,000 surgical face masks for Stuff the Bus. Those masks will make their way to schools throughout southcentral Kentucky, helping students and staff navigate the uncharted waters of reopening schools during a pandemic.

As Rose has said, no donation could be more timely. If our schools are to return to some semblance of normalcy and do the important job of educating youngsters, masks will be at least as important as paper, pencils and crayons.

Adding to the timeliness is the funding uncertainty of the school-based family resource centers that will ultimately distribute the masks to youngsters.

Todd Hazel, who oversees the FRCs in the Warren County school system, said he is expecting state-level budget cuts that will add to the challenges those important centers are facing.

“This couldn’t come at a better time,” Hazel said of the plan to include masks among the basic school supplies and funding the FRCs will be receiving from Stuff the Bus.

While Wendy’s is writing the check, Rose is also to be commended for recognizing the needs of our schools during the pandemic.

“Things like crayons and pencils are still important, but we had to decide how we were going to live in the COVID-19 world,” Rose said. “We’re now in a world where a face covering has turned into a basic school supply.”

Whether schools reopen fully next month or operate on some sort of hybrid schedule that continues to incorporate some online instruction, face coverings are going to be important for a while.

Having extras on hand could, quite literally, be a lifesaver.

Bayne Million, vice president of Wendy’s of Bowling Green, said donating the masks was “an obvious thing for us to help with.”

Million explained: “I thought it was a great idea and a great way to give back to students. Those children may lose their masks, so these being donated are intended as a backup. It’s a great way to help out and contribute to the safety of students.”

And Million says Wendy’s is willing to make further donations if needed.

“Fifteen thousand masks sounds like a lot,” Million said. “But we don’t know how far that will go. In 60 or 90 days, if there is more need, we’ll gladly do it again.”

Since Rose launched it as a radio promotion 15 years ago, Stuff the Bus has been primarily about helping all students start the school year with adequate supplies. In this unusual year, the nonprofit has, like all of us, been forced to adjust to a new reality and focus more on protecting students and staff from a dangerous virus.

We applaud Stuff the Bus for making that adjustment, and we applaud Wendy’s for not only making this initial contribution but for its willingness to continue doing what’s needed to ensure the safety of students and staff.

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