Employees from 35 central Iowa organizations, along with many individual contributors from the community, donated more than 30,000 children’s books to United Way of Central Iowa’s Stuff the Bus book drive. The results were announced at the annual community-wide book collection at Athene in West Des Moines on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Every book donated will be distributed to more than 100 childcare or child-serving programs in Dallas, Polk and Warren Counties.

"As United Way continues our work of fostering a thriving community, we recognize the crucial role early literacy plays in shaping a child's future success," said Mary Sellers, President of United Way of Central Iowa. "Our 2024 Community Report underscores the importance of kindergarten readiness, revealing a concerning 14% drop among central Iowa children over the last six years. Access to age-appropriate books is fundamental in developing literacy skills and paving the way for continued educational success. Through programs like Stuff the Bus, our community is empowering central Iowa children with the tools they need for academic success and beyond."

The annual Stuff the Bus book drive is part of United Way of Central Iowa’s UNITED to THRIVE strategic focus on Early Childhood Success and Education Success, to ensure central Iowa youth enter school ready to learn and are academically successful, with a plan for their future. Stuff the Bus, sponsored by Athene and EY, engages the whole community in helping students as they continue throughout their educational journey from birth through graduation. The ultimate goal is to provide central Iowa students access to age-appropriate books so they will not only experience success in school, but success throughout their lifetime.

“Athene is proud to once again sponsor the Stuff the Bus program in partnership with United Way and EY,” said Grant Kvalheim, CEO and President of Athene USA. “This cornerstone event embodies Athene’s philanthropic pillar of education and our commitment to investing in our community. This year we focused our efforts on collecting children’s books for childcare and educational centers, and our employees went above and beyond, donating over 16,390 books.”

Organizations were invited to sign up and host book drives to collect new and like-new non-fiction, STEM-related or bilingual books. Getting a variety of books promotes understanding and respect for all – especially when the books feature characters who represent different ethnicities, races and disabilities.

“Giving is an important part of EY’s culture and our mission is to build a better working world by strengthening the communities we work and live in. Collaborating with Athene for this event helps us increase our reach. Every child deserves access to books, and we all know success in education relies on reading skills formed at a young age,” said Phil Randall, Partner at EY. “Our employees lead by example when it comes to giving to organizations like United Way. Our employee volunteers not only help with the book collection, they have the pleasure of distributing the books to the childcare programs. Together, we truly are making a difference.”

View Photos from Stuff the Bus

Topics: Early Childhood Success, Education Success

Paige Weinschenk

Written by Paige Weinschenk

Paige Weinschenk is the Content & Media Manager at United Way of Central Iowa.