“Stuff the Bus” is a community project organized by the United Way of Salt Lake City aimed at helping thousands of students in Salt Lake Valley get ready for school by providing them school supplies. Since 2018, members of the Sri Sathya Sai Group of Salt Lake City have actively taken part in this annual event. Each year, Sai Volunteers collectively purchase school supplies such as pens and pencils, notebooks, folders, and more, and then come together to stuff backpacks with these school items. The children are often involved in the process, as a way of sowing the seeds of service at a young age. 

School readiness was, however, different this year as a result of the pandemic. In a recent survey, hundreds of parents who are struggling to make ends meet reported that, in addition to school supplies, they also needed help with health and safety supplies. As a result, this year, “Stuff the Bus” provided students with disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, hand soaps, in addition to backpacks and school supplies, in order to keep students and schools safe. In addition, due to COVID-19 safety guidelines, volunteers were requested to host a virtual “Stuff  the Bus” supply drive, by financially sponsoring a number of backpacks. The United Way had a goal of distributing more than 3,000 backpacks across Salt Lake Valley. The Sai community decided to sponsor 40 backpacks.

Through this project, Sai volunteers have become aware of many families in Salt Lake Valley who don’t even have their basic needs met, and that school supplies, which most of us take for granted, are beyond their means. This project shines a light on ways we can support this economically-challenged community. One member of the Sai group shared, “There is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and gratitude when we assemble hundreds of school supplies for delivery to those in need. Our entire family looks forward to participating in this activity every summer. In the end, it is all about making a difference in the lives of children to give them a stronger foundation to start the school year a little more confident. And that has made all the difference for us too.”