Working Together to ‘Stuff the Bus’

Kayli Bates, Kylee Brown and Tiler de Long pitched in to help assemble and fill backpacks during Stuff the Bus.

by Amy Nielsen

A group of volunteers that included teens and family members from Aera Energy worked together recently with the United Way of Ventura County to assemble backpacks full of school supplies for homeless and underprivileged youth. The program, which began in 2010, is called Stuff the Bus, and received support in funding from Aera and community individuals for the purchase and donations of backpacks and supplies for K-12 students.  The volunteers worked in shifts in assembly lines to put together hundreds of backpacks filled with pens, pencils, binders and other important school supplies for the coming fall session.

Kylee Brown, a local 18-year-old who is about to head to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo for her freshman year, volunteered with her father, Kevin, and some of her friends. “Contributing to an effort that would help kids that either don’t have a home, or don’t have money for school supplies felt good. I was really shocked when I heard that there are 6,000 homeless children in Ventura County. That’s a big number, and it shocked everyone working in the room,” she said. “You don’t really think about children being homeless, you think about what you see every day, usually adults. It gave us all a better purpose of being there, and made the work even more inspirational.”

The donated items are to be distributed from the Ventura County Office of Education to local school districts. More than 1,200 students are expected to receive these backpacks and supplies. “Every day I see what I have, versus what some others do, and it makes me more inclined to give back, because I know that not everyone has it as easy as some of us,” said Brown.

Her father Kevin has been with Aera for 13 years and serves as a Process Specialist. He shared that it was especially meaningful to participate in this effort with his daughter and her friends. “The kids did a really great job, and it helped provide us all with a real sense of community, and a chance to help other people out that are less fortunate than they are. You never know if you or someone you love might be in the same situation,” said Brown. “It’s really cool, we provide a lot of support for the community, we’re not a big company like Chevron or Shell, but Aera is a huge leader in supporting the area; we’re always doing community events, like the Day of Caring, supporting schools, and homeless facilities, and food drives every year.”

“It’s always so great to have young people volunteer, and Aera’s support has been phenomenal, and really made the entire project possible.” said Susan Englund, Vice President, Community Impact for the United Way of Ventura County.

Kayli Bates is also heading off for her first year of college, to Cal State San Marcos. She had an even more personal connection to the volunteer work, as she’d been temporarily classified as a homeless youth when her family’s home burned down in the Thomas Fire. “It felt good to be helping young people who were in that same kind of category,” she said. “The community was definitely there to support our family back then, and it felt wonderful to give back and help others in the community with this, and especially with my friends.” She said it was the first time she’d volunteered for anything like that. “It felt good in my soul to do this,” said Bates.

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