Over 32,000 books will be donated to central Iowa kids from United Way of Central Iowa’s annual Stuff the Bus Book Drive.

Employees from 27 central Iowa organizations, along with several individual contributors from the community, donated 32,216 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 Thursday.

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

“For years United Way has been calling attention to the importance of reading proficiency at the end of third grade,” said Mary Sellers, President of United Way of Central Iowa: “Unfortunately following the pandemic central Iowa’s third grade reading scores have dropped significantly. Our community’s donations to Stuff the Bus will help more children have access to books, which is a key factor for improving reading proficiency scores and greatly increasing chances for long-term education success.”

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, where 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 SHAZAM, engages the whole community in helping students as they continue throughout their educational journey from birth through graduation.

“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. “Athene is passionate about supporting educational initiatives that help provide children with the resources they need to be successful. This year we focused our efforts on collecting books for children aged zero to preschool and our employees went above and beyond, donating 13,791 books.”

Organizations were invited to sign up and host book drives to collect new and gently used 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 SHAZAM’s culture and our mission is to strengthen the communities we work and live in. Partnering 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 Paul Waltz, President, and CEO of SHAZAM. “Our employees lead by example when it comes to giving to organizations like United Way. This year our donation was over 1,500 books – a great total for a company with 429 local employees. Together, we truly are making a difference."

About United Way of Central Iowa

United Way of Central Iowa is UNITED to THRIVE, fostering an equitable, engaged, and empowered community. For 100 years and counting, United Way of Central Iowa brings together nonprofits, businesses, government, leaders, volunteers, and people across the community to identify and strategically address the most pressing needs in central Iowa. Focusing on issues such as affordable housing, early grade-level reading, poverty, physical and mental health, high school graduation, and workforce training – United Way of Central Iowa inspires central Iowans to give, advocate, and volunteer to improve lives and empower everyone in our community. For more information about United Way of Central Iowa, visit www.unitedwaydm.org.

About Athene USA

Athene USA is a subsidiary of Athene Holding Ltd, a leading retirement services company that has total assets of $235.1 billion as of June 30, 2021. Athene USA is an Iowa-domiciled corporation that serves as the U.S. holding company for Athene’s annuity operations in the United States. Headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa, Athene USA serves customers in all 50 states, and through its predecessor companies, has been serving American consumers for more than 100 years. Further information about Athene can be found at www.athene.com.


SHAZAM pioneered the PIN-debit point-of-sale transaction, still used worldwide today. We’re the nation’s only independent, member-owned debit network, processor and core provider supporting community banks and credit unions. Since we don’t answer to shareholders, we can reinvest profits in technologies our clients need as they serve the next generation of consumers. SHAZAM ensures our clients have the products and services they demand and expect in a cost-effective way. Founded in 1976 and headquartered in Iowa, we’re a leader in payments and financial technology, with a simple mission: Strengthening community financial institutions. Visit us today at shazam.net.

TAGS: Volunteer, Early Childhood Success, Education Success

Ramona Gaukel

About The Author: Ramona Gaukel

Ramona, or Moni, Gaukel is the former Volunteer Engagement Officer for United Way of Central Iowa.