Employees from 29 central Iowa organizations, along with individual contributors from the community, donated 23,610 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 USA in West Des Moines on Tuesday.

Every one of the donated children’s books will be distributed to nearly 150 childcare or child-serving programs in Dallas, Polk, and Warren Counties.

“Before the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of children in families with low-income did not own or have access to children’s books,” said Elisabeth Buck, President of United Way of Central Iowa: “Having access to books at an early age is key to helping all kids get the start they need to learn how to read, keep them on track academically, and ultimately, to graduate from high school. But it feels like more than that when we hear from our partners on how excited the kids are when they receive these book donations. We know the thousands of books we collected through Stuff the Bus are creating new connections, inspiring an exploration of unknown paths, and fostering a love of reading in our youngest central Iowans.”

The annual Stuff the Bus book drive is part of United Way of Central Iowa’s UNITED to THRIVE strategic focus on Education Success, where central Iowa youth are academically successful and have a plan for their future. Stuff the Bus, sponsored by Athene and SHAZAM, engages the whole community in helping students as they continue throughout their educational journey from birth through graduation.

See photos from the event here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmVMcCzB

“Athene is proud to once again sponsor the Stuff the Bus program in partnership with United Way and SHAZAM,” said Grant Kvalheim, CEO and President of Athene USA and a member of United Way of Central Iowa’s Board of Directors. “Our Athene team understands the importance of education, early education in particular, and the role it plays in creating a thriving community. It’s why our employees are passionate about supporting this program.”

Organizations were invited to sign up to host book drives and to collect new and gently used non-fiction, STEM-related, or bilingual books that focused on diversity and inclusion.

“Giving is an important part of SHAZAM’s culture, and our fantastic employees lead by example when it comes to giving to organizations like United Way,” said Paul Waltz, President and CEO of SHAZAM. “We understand that success in school is key to a bright future, and reading is the foundation to that success, and that’s why the Stuff the Bus campaign is something we readily support.

“Every child deserves access to books and success in education, and very soon the books just collected will be distributed to childcare centers, schools and others who serve families with low income,” Waltz continued. “It’s why we’re proud to sponsor this initiative in partnership with United Way and Athene. We know that together, united, we truly are making a difference in education.”

Topics: Education Success

Sara Engelhart

Written by Sara Engelhart

Sara Engelhart is United Way of Central Iowa's former Strategic Communications Operations Manager.