Sumter County Family Connection, United Way of Southwest Georgia Stuff the Bus for Vulnerable Kids

Print This Post

Sumter County’s most vulnerable students returned to school this month with supplies they received at the Stuff the Bus Initiative to help them get ready for, and succeed in, school. Sumter County Family Connection, in partnership with United Way of Southwest Georgia, launched the inaugural community-wide school supply drive that reached hundreds of children from the five local schools.

“With the challenges our community has faced during the pandemic, and before it arrived in Georgia, this initiative provides relief to help the local schoolchildren and teachers with essential school supplies,” said Sheila Veronica Hambrick, Sumter County Family Connection program coordinator and executive director. “The overwhelming support from the community and volunteers, community stakeholders, and local organizations illustrates how collaborative efforts possess the ability to enrich the lives of our community.”

The Georgia Family Connection Collaborative targets its efforts toward families with children and annual income less than 150% of the federal poverty threshold—which accounts for 40.6% of Sumter’s population, according to the latest Georgia KIDS COUNT data—and includes those living in housing authority neighborhoods. This vital work includes providing support, activities, and awareness focused on improving local families’ economic stability.

“Our long-term partnership with Sumter County Family Connection benefits our residents in a multitude of ways,” said Diana Roberts, Americus Housing Authority Resident Services coordinator. “Most importantly, it connects our low-income families to various service agencies and nonprofits that they would not have access to, due to transportation and financial restraints. Through our partnership we’re able to bring these services directly to the residents.”

According to Hambrick, Sumter County Family Connection has incorporated a systematic strategy with community stakeholders and partners to support and empower families with how to provide a safe and nurturing environment. The Collaborative works with partners to inform and engage families with children from birth to age 8 with support and activities focused on improving early childhood, family literacy, and thriving parent involvement.

“The Stuff the Bus Initiative was a great benefit to the residents of the Americus Housing Authority,” said Roberts. “Most students reside in single-parent homes and receiving free school supplies took a lot of financial pressure off those parents who otherwise would have had to purchase supplies for their families, which often consist of students in various grades. We would love to see the Stuff the Bus Initiative become an annual event.”

Closing schools in Sumter County during the pandemic has posed a learning disruption, leaving what Hambrick described as children devoid of the academic and social experience.

“The overwhelming changes families have faced set a precedence for us to focus on mental health awareness, which is more vital now than ever,” said Hambrick. “Most of our children come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and this past year has been unique coping with COVID-19.”

The Collaborative will continue to integrate school, health, and human services to ensure that families in the community have a wide range of support that will cover them with the knowledge and experience they need to be self-sufficient.

“Connecting with Sumter County Family Connection and United Way of Southwest Georgia on the Stuff the Bus initiative to provide our students and families with needed school supplies during these critical times was essential,” said Walter Knighton, Sumter County Schools associate superintendent. “The community support for this initiative demonstrates that we can continue to enrich the lives of others through our collaborative efforts. I look forward to our future endeavors.”