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August 09, 2022
Mitchel Sloan, United Way of Ventura County
(805) 485-6288, ext. 229

Community joins United Way of Ventura County for Stuff the Bus Campaign,
providing school-year essentials to homeless youth in Ventura County
Ventura, Calif. (August 1, 2022) — About 3,000 students experiencing homelessness in Ventura County will start the new school year off right with backpacks filled with essential-school supplies.
The backpacks were delivered to more than 200 Ventura County schools through United Way of Ventura County’s Stuff the Bus Campaign, made possible with support from the Ventura County Office of Education, Gene Haas Foundation, community members and a $10,000 donation from Aera Energy.
“For so many of our families the little money they have may be better spent on food, paying rent or a new pair of shoes for the school year rather than backpacks and school supplies,” said Susan Englund, vice president of community impact, United Way of Ventura County. “We’re helping ease the financial burden on parents so the students can start the school year with everything they need. These supplies also promote learning, build self-esteem, and help our youth stay in school.”
Community members, and volunteers from local businesses including Aera stepped in to stuff backpacks for the homeless youth. Many of these students live in their cars, trailers, shelters, couch surf, or in overcrowded settings. The backpacks were given to schools to distribute to the students, grades kindergarten through 12, before the first day of school.
“The Stuff the Bus Campaign is about so much more than just backpacks and school supplies,” said Amy Fonzo, external affairs advisor at Aera-Ventura. “Aera is a strong supporter of education and building stronger communities is a focus everywhere we operate. The backpack and school supplies not only ensure students are equipped for success, it has a positive effect on their confidence and self-esteem helping them to start the school year off right.”
The Ventura County Office of Education (VCOE) estimates about 5,800 students in Ventura County are classified as homeless - lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. About 2,000 of those students are from the Oxnard Union High School District.
One Ventura family shares a room in a single-family home shared with five other families, according to Cathi Nye, coordinator for the homeless education program at the VCOE. Nye said during the pandemic – many families had their eldest children going out to work to support their families when parents lost their jobs in the service industry, middle-school children were left taking care of their youngest siblings — all while facing challenges associated with virtual learning.
“The struggle was really illustrated at its highest point during the years of the pandemic,” Nye said. “These students have been through so much. Every day they are worried about necessities like food and shelter — and then they’re facing a long list of school supplies to get ready for school. Having them walk into school with a backpack and all the supplies they need is really empowering, helps them feel confident and gets them excited about learning.”
About United Way of Ventura County
Since 1945, United Way of Ventura County has advanced the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all. United Way identifies the root causes of poverty and works strategically to solve them by building alliances across all sectors, funding targeted programs and advocating for change. When we work together in common purpose, we LIVE UNITED. For more information about United Way of Ventura County, visit www.vcunitedway.org.