A helping hand to get ready for school

Column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

Tracy Armentrout and Jenny Rutherford came to a great idea. Armentrout, the director of Creative Wonders Learning Center in Stuarts Draft, works in her role at Creative Wonders with the local Department of Social Services, “and I hear a lot about the need that is out there, that they need help with the children that are under Department of Social Services care,” she said.

So why not try to do something to help those kids out? she asked Rutherford, the marketing director at RentPPM.com in Stuarts Draft, who thought things through on the getting-the-word-out side of things, came up with a name for their effort, “Help Us Fill the Bus,” lined up a school bus through the Augusta County School System, and the rest, as they sometimes say, is history.

The two-week campaign launched by Armentrout and Rutherford to collect items for children in local foster-care programs gathered enough school supplies to send 50 children back to school this week with everything they needed to hit the 2008-2009 school year running.

It all came together in just a couple of weeks. “Help Us Fill the Bus” got under way on Aug. 4, and in the short period of time that Armentrout and Rutherford collected money and items for back to school they made contact with Wal-Mart, E&E Plumbing and Heating and Advocare, and several individuals and families who also contributed.

“A lot of people stepped up to the plate,” Armentrout said.

The need is definitely out there for more such efforts in the future, and if you ask me, I think Armentrout and Rutherford are onto something innovative here. Plenty of groups and organizations put together Christmas-toy drives toward the end of the year, to the point where the market for such campaigns is a bit oversaturated at this point. Back-to-school time is just as important a time, if not more so, given the stakes in our increasingly competitive education world.

Armentrout and Rutherford are already thinking ahead to next summer and what they’re going to do differently with “Help Us Fill the Bus.”

“We’re going to get started a lot earlier, for one thing,” Armentrout said.


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