When Tiffany Wood pushed her grocery cart through a door at the Richland Avenue Wal-Mart, she stopped by a Stuff the Bus tent with notebooks and other supplies she donated Friday.

Every year before school starts, the United Way of Aiken County asks community residents to give pens, pencils, crayons and other items to help families who can use the assistance.

“My daughter is still 3 and won’t be starting school till next year,” Wood said. “I really wanted to do this to help other parents out.”

The United Way of Aiken County hosts Stuff the Bus every July at all three Wal-Marts – the others on Whiskey Road in Aiken and on Knox Avenue in North Augusta. The Aiken County School District provides school buses at each site. Aiken Electric Cooperative also brought a classic little red schoolhouse model – built by employees – to the Richland Avenue store.

Stuff the Bus is part of a larger School Tools initiative. Next month, every Aiken County public school will receive boxes full of supplies that can be used much of the year to help out parents.

“Things went really well at all three Wal-Marts,” said Candis Moyer, the agency’s director of resource development. “We have volunteers who always help us, among them several board members and our communications committee members. We couldn’t do this without Aiken Electric and (communications coordinator) Muriel Carter. They help us unload all the supplies.”

Abby Sorenson, a USC Aiken senior, will intern with Carter through the year.

Leshia Bell, also a USCA senior, is interning at the United Way. Both participated at Stuff the Bus on Friday, as did Bell’s sister, Shameka, a recent graduate.

“It’s been very rewarding and eye-opening,” said Leshia. “I never knew that United Way did so much in the community.”

Rashad Roland donated some school items on Friday and may get the chance to distribute them after school starts. He has joined the Schofield Middle School staff, filling the new position as parent coordinator.

“Maybe I’ll be sent to pick up the items to bring them back to the school, and that would be fun,” Roland said. “I’ll be working with parents who may be in different situations. So, if they’re not able to afford supplies, that’s something we can do for them.”

Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001.