United Way Stuff-A-Bus to skip breakfast, hold donation drive July 25

Above in this August 2016 file photo, United Way Stuff-A-Bus volunteers pose in the Walmart parking lot.

OSWEGO — The United Way of Greater Oswego County will be raising money and collecting items for its annual Stuff-A-Bus program, but this year won’t involve its traditional kick-off of bacon, eggs or home fries.

No breakfast will be served due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but a bus will be parked in front of Spencer’s Ali on West Second Street in Oswego from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 25 to accept school supplies, masks for school-aged children and monetary donations.  The money raised will be used to buy more supplies, and everything will be distributed to the nine schools across Oswego County later this summer.

For United Way of Greater Oswego County Executive Director Patrick Dewine, it was crucial to keep the tradition going even without the breakfast.

“We looked at a couple different options … and we decided to keep the tradition of doing the fundraising effort, but we took a spin on it,” Dewine said, noting there will still be raffles like in previous years.

It would’ve been the 15th year of the breakfast fundraising event, which is usually held on the Saturday morning of Harborfest weekend. Oswego’s marquee summertime event, which draws tens of thousands to Lake Ontario and the Oswego River, was also cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Stuff-A-Bus is one of the United Way’s most visible and successful annual campaigns. Proceeds from last year’s event helped distribute 25,704 school items across the county, and serve more than 1,700 students.

“We like to give marginalized children the same opportunities,” Dewine said. “In order to be more successful in the classroom, you need to be well prepared and that includes the tools necessary to learn. When students don’t have that, not only does it make it more difficult for the student, but more challenging for the teacher to make sure their students have the necessary tools.”

The United Way breakfast is typically supported by restaurants from the area, making it a low-cost, high-yield fundraiser.

“All of that income, for the most part, is pretty much profit and that helps us buy the excess school supplies for all of the school districts across Oswego County,” Dewine said.

Dewine said officials looked into possibly serving breakfast in a drive-thru fashion, but decided to instead focus on more conventional options. Dewine said volunteer response has been down from previous years, particularly from its stable of college helpers — he said many clubs are on sabbatical.

“We realized the response may not be as strong as it was in the past,” Dewine said. “This usually kick starts the campaign for fundraising.”

Donation boxes will be available around the county to solicit more supplies. While there’s no specific goal set, Dewine and the United Way are happy to keep the tradition rolling.

“We’re keeping the idea of the Stuff-A-Bus Breakfast event going,” Dewine said, “but this year it had to be different for obvious reasons.”

For more information or if you’re interested in helping with or donating to Stuff-A-Bus 2020, visit oswegounitedway.org or call 315-593-1900.

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