Setting up success

Members of the Underwood volleyball team chose items for a school backpack Thursday morning at the United Way in downtown Fergus Falls.

Although there is a month left of summer for school-aged children, the United Way of Otter Tail and Wadena Counties (UWOTW) is ramping up efforts to make sure all students have supplies needed for school. The Stuff the Bus program is back to help these students get the supplies they need to be successful.

While the program has been successful over the past few years, the coronavirus pandemic is one issue facing the program this year, the other is a small number of applicants. Last year, the program gave out over 800 backpacks with school supplies. This year, there have been just 200 applicants.

“We are down on applications and we hope that parents are just unsure about the school year,” UWOTW executive director Mary Phillipe said. “Children will need supplies whether they are in the classroom or distance learning.”

Phillipe said that parents can still apply for the program by calling the UWOTW (218-736-5147), by email or online by visiting 

“We need parents to get in applications as soon as they can,” Phillipe added.

Not only do the bags contain school supplies, but the program also provided oral health care for children including a toothbrush, floss, toothpaste and other essentials.

The organization is also looking for volunteers to help fill backpacks with supplies. Phillipe stated that due to guidelines by the CDC and the public health department, volunteers and organizations should contact UWOTW to set up times to help with the project.

If community members are looking to donate to the program, they have a few options. One way to donate is to bring in supplies or a donation to one of the United Way offices. Another option is to bring supplies to the Stuff the Bus event at Triangle Park in Fergus Falls from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 2.

The backpacks will be distributed to students the last week of August, before the start of school.

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