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Fill the Bus campaign raises nearly $1,000

The Butler County Education Retirees Association (BCERA) aimed to bring Christmas in July to teachers in the county’s public schools this weekend during the sixth annual Fill the Bus campaign.

Much like the name would suggest, members of the association parked a Butler County Schools bus outside of Walmart for three days and, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., they collected school supplies and monetary donations to be used for purchasing more supplies for teachers.

BCERA president and former Butler County educator Wayne Boswell said that, in the wake of cut funding from the Alabama legislature back in 2008, teachers and school nurses have had to progressively dig further into their pockets to purchase their own supplies.

“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?” Boswell said. “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.”

The labors of the BCERA members this weekend under an oppressive sun bore fruit as the organization raised approximately $1,000 in monetary contributions and even more in donated school supplies. 

Boswell said that the total donations fell a bit short of yearly averages, though he added that the legislature moving the tax-free weekend up a few weeks from the first weekend of August to the third weekend in July was a factor.

“From what we picked up, people were kind of caught unawares,” Boswell said. “I’m sure Walmart did well, but there were just a lot of people who said ‘well, this is July, and we’re not thinking about school starting.’ There were several comments along that line.”

In addition to the challenge of collecting donations, the BCERA members also braved nature’s harshest conditions.  Boswell called Friday’s heat in particular the toughest that the group has ever had to endure.

“We get the heat off of the asphalt in the parking lot, and when the sun starts heating the building, that reflects down on us until the sun sets behind it,” he said. “But again, we’re doing something for a good cause, and that’s to assist classroom teachers who ultimately help students.  In spite of the heat, we do it to help out the educational process.

“Walmart was most generous.  They brought out one of their big shop fans, and they also brought us bottled water, and they would come out from time to time to check and see if we needed anything.  [Walmart site manager] Mr. James Packer and the entire staff of Walmart were very supportive.”

The school supplies and donations will be distributed in a grade-appropriate manner to all six schools in the Butler County School System, including W.O. Parmer, Greenville Elementary, Middle and High School, Georgiana and McKenzie.

“If there is a good cause out there—whether it be what we’re doing or Safe Harbor or Relay for life—and people really see that and understand it, they’re going to help support it,” Boswell said. “And thank goodness for the wonderful people we have in our community.”