SIKESTON - An effort launched by VF Factory Outlet to assist teachers is the driving force behind a new campaign at the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores. Now the public can get on board and help "Fill the Bus" with classroom supplies for area teachers.
The "Fill the Bus" program was created and launched by VF Factory Outlet employees in Greensboro, N.C., in 2001. The communitywide effort brought in over $200,000 worth of school supplies for 3,800 local teachers. In 2002, VF associates collected more supplies.
With the arrival of VF Outlet to the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores this spring, word about the campaign began to circulate. Lisa Neumeyer, SFOS manager, called the program just the type of cause that appealed to the SFOS stores and their employees with its focus on education and young people.
Teachers are bridging the funding gap by spending a considerable amount of their own money in the classroom, said Neumeyer, citing a report by the National School Supply and Equipment Association.
"The tax-paying public may not realize that teachers are quietly providing necessary supplies and materials for their classrooms," she said.
"Collectively, teachers spend $1 billion a year on classroom supplies out of their own pockets. That's more than $500 per teacher," Neumeyer continued. "The study also cited the fact that if the teachers don't provide the additional funds for the materials or supplies, the students often go without."
So to help teachers meet their classroom needs, Neumeyer has placed "teacher wish lists" in all the SFO stores.
Pointing out the SFOS employees come from seven or eight different school districts, she explained the local "Fill the Bus" campaign is designed to provide supplies to teachers throughout the area. The lists can be filled out by any area teacher and left at the outlet stores.
Teachers will be asked to list the top five things they spend their money on for their students as well as the one thing they wished they had in the classroom. Neumeyer said this could include dry erase markers, colored copy paper, three-ring binders or other things not necessarily supplied through the schools. Items sought for the classroom could be bigger needs such as a locking file cabinet.
As the wish lists grow, the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores will encourage the public to get involved. Cardboard school buses are going to be constructed and placed at the VF Factory Outlet for donations and donations can be left at the factory outlet stores' main office. Those who wish to join in the effort can bring new school supplies, such as crayons, glue, binders and other items to assist teachers in their educational efforts.
Lindsay Aycock, who is beginning her first year of teaching this fall at Matthews Elementary in Sikeston and is working this summer at the Dress Barn at the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores, is excited about the promotion.
"It sounds like a great program and it is exciting to see it in Sikeston," said Aycock.
She added she has known other teachers who have had to provide supplies for their classrooms and will often buy supplies for needy students so the students can have the basics for their education.
"I really hope the public responds well," said the new first grade teacher. "It is a great chance to help with the schools, not just the Sikeston schools, but all over, and a great chance to help the students."
The collection will continue throughout June and into July with a big push planned for July 16-18 when Neumeyer said she hopes to see the buses filled to capacity. That next week, the SFOS staff will begin matching wishes to actual supplies donated.
Neumeyer said the individual wish lists will be filled on a first-come and first-serve basis with any left over items donated to the area schools.
For more information about the "Fill the Bus" campaign contact Neumeyer at the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores' main office at telephone number 472-2222.