United Way volunteers Stuff the Bus with 23,188 books

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Volunteers from 22 local organizations helped collect more than 23,000 books for the United Way of Central Iowa annual Stuff the Bus book drive. Photo courtesy United Way of Central Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa — Employees from 22 central Iowa organizations, along with more than a dozen individual contributors from the community, donated some 23,188 children’s books to this year’s United Way of Central Iowa’s Stuff the Bus book drive.

All of the donated children’s books will be distributed to nearly 90 United Way of Central Iowa’s community partners offering childcare or child-serving programs in Dallas, Polk and Warren counties.

The results of the annual community-wide book collection were announced Tuesday at the offices of Athene USA in West Des Moines.

“The thousands of books we collected through Stuff the Bus are critical in helping children throughout central Iowa succeed,” said Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa. “Before the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of children in families with low-income did not own or have access to children’s books. Having access to books is key to helping all kids get the early start they need to learn how to read, and ultimately, to graduate from high school.”

The annual Stuff the Bus book drive normally occurs in the spring as part of READ to SUCCEED, United Way’s call to action to engage the whole community in helping students read at grade level by third grade. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, the event was held on this year’s annual Day of Action, when corporate volunteers help United Way and its nonprofit partners across the community.

Organizations signed up to collect new and gently used books, and employees were especially encouraged to donate non-fiction, STEM-related or bilingual books that focused on diversity and inclusion. Books donated will go to children of all ages, from birth to high school.

Athene USA, the West Des Moines-based insurance company, sponsors the annual Day of Action, and this year they were joined by a co-sponsor, SHAZAM, the electronic financial transactions company.

“Athene is proud to once again sponsor the Stuff the Bus program in partnership with United Way,” said Grant Kvalheim, CEO and president of Athene USA and a member of United Way of Central Iowa’s Board of Directors. Athene employees donated more than 18,000 books to this year’s Stuff the Bus.

“SHAZAM is the sum of our employees, and our employees lead by example when it comes to giving to organizations like United Way,” said Paul Waltz, president and CEO of SHAZAM. He said the company’s 400 local employees collected 2,212 books in this year’s book drive.

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