The start of the school year brings a sense of anticipation, and maybe a little anxiety.

New classrooms. New teachers. New friends. It’s a fresh start.

Then there’s the pristine, unopened box of crayons. The cool backpack. New pencils and pens. While students might miss summer, many look forward to all the new school supplies.

But that’s where anxiety can come in. School supplies are expensive, and some families just cannot afford the ever-increasing costs.

In Santa Rosa County, Florida, community leaders joined forces to help ease the financial burden for families in Pace, Milton, Navarre and beyond. Regions Bank joined, too.

Regions has a very clear mission – and that is to make life better in the communities we serve.
Scott Barrow, Market Executive for Regions in Pensacola

Ryan Funderburk works for Regions in nearby Pensacola and helps homeowners along the Florida Panhandle with mortgage solutions. In his spare time, he serves as an ambassador for the Santa Rosa County Chamber of Commerce. When he and others learned that a longtime school supply drive wasn’t going to be able to serve the whole county this year, as it had in years past, they jumped into action.

“The goal of ‘Stuff the Bus’ is to raise awareness of the needs in our school system and give the community an opportunity to meet those needs,” Funderburk explained. “This was our first year taking on this event, and we managed to raise more money this year than in any previous years. That money will go directly to providing pencils, crayons, paper and other needed supplies for students to have a strong foundation for the school year.”

Regions associates Ryan Funderburk, left, and Crystal Berkley, right, help collect school supplies at the Pace, Florida, Walmart.

Scott Barrow, who serves as Market Executive for Regions in Pensacola, said the bank’s teams are constantly looking for ways to use their time and talents to make an impact.

“Regions has a very clear mission – and that is to make life better in the communities we serve,” Barrow said. “What you’re seeing here is the result of Ryan and others carrying out that mission. And we didn’t do this alone; other corporate partners stepped up to the plate, too. We’re proud to work together, and we’re grateful to everyone who donated.”

According to the Santa Rosa County School District, 3,000 students in the area need help with school supplies. Of those, 1,200 have been identified as homeless. Stuff the Bus organizers set a goal of having 3,000 backpacks full of supplies ready to start the school year.

Dr. Karen Barber, right, and Regions’ Ryan Funderburk, left, helped raise community awareness of the need for back-to-school supplies. To date, more than $12,000 has been raised for students in the Santa Rosa County School District.

“The Santa Rosa County School District sincerely appreciates the generosity of Regions Bank,” said Dr. Karen Barber, Director of Federal Programs for the school district. “The volunteers from Regions, along with the monetary donations, will help set our students up for a successful school year. Thanks to the Stuff the Bus effort, our students have the tools they need to be engaged in learning and prepared for their future.”

Volunteerism is a key part of Regions’ focus on community engagement. Throughout each year, bank associates volunteer with a wide range of nonprofits working to strengthen communities.

In addition to financial and volunteer support for Stuff the Bus, associates helped collect supplies at all Santa Rosa County Regions branches. Funderburk’s group is still collecting supplies and monetary donations as the school year approaches.