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Fill the Bus campaign shifts into gear Friday

Few understand the plight facing many educators around the state as well as members of the Butler County Education Retirees Association (BCERA).

School supplies aren’t cheap for students, and that proves doubly true for educators, who often have to dip into their own pockets to cover costs in the wake of lost public school funding.

For the past five years, the BCERA has developed a novel approach to help alleviate the burden on Butler County’s educators just a bit before the start of a new school year.

The BCERA’s Fill the Bus Campaign’s goal is to, unsurprisingly, fill an actual school bus full of supplies for teachers during the course of the tax-free holiday weekend, slated for July 21-23.

Beginning Friday morning at 8 a.m., a member of the BCERA will occupy a Butler County School System bus parked outside of Walmart for the purpose of taking up donations for the sake of the county’s teachers and school nurses.

BCERA president Wayne Boswell said that, due largely in part to experience, the county’s retirees know exactly what today’s teachers are facing.

“We’ve been there. We’ve done that.  We understand the need.  And this is a way that we can still contribute even though we’re retired. We just want the school system, the teachers and the nurses to do well.”

Boswell added that things became particularly difficult for the county’s educators during the recession of 2008, in which the Alabama legislature cut funding aimed at keeping teachers’ classrooms stocked with supplies.

“Teachers had to go more and more into their pockets to get supplies, as well as school nurses,” Boswell added. “It’s not that they mind, but what other job is there that you go to that requires you to pay for what you work with out of your own pocket?

“There is a need for all kinds of classroom supplies, be it crayons, glue or whatever.  But the main thing that is in need for classroom teachers is copier paper.  They never receive enough. So as retirees, we’re still interested in education and we want to support them. It will ultimately help students, but our goal is to assist classroom teachers.”

The association is looking to arm each teacher in the Butler County School System with a bag of grade-appropriate supplies before the first day of school.

The BCERA’s efforts to aid educators have been so successful in recent years that it has earned them community service awards from the state association, and now all 81 local units for retirees have been encouraged to emulate the Butler County Fill the Bus campaign in some capacity.