JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – SunBelt Rentals is doing its part to make sure students have what they need for the 2023-2024 school year.
The local branch of the nationwide company collected thousands of school supplies from June 1 through July 14 and made a big drop-off Thursday morning to Duval County Public Schools.
“I told [SunBelt employees] that this is the Mary Poppins truck,” DCPS employee Tricia Pough said during the drop-off. “They kept bringing stuff out, bringing stuff out. When I thought it was empty, they brought out another pallet. I am really overjoyed. These students will be blessed by all of this.”
Pough works with the DCPS McKinney-Vento program, which is a federal program that helps families in situations like losing housing due to financial hardship or natural disasters or domestic violence situations. She knows all of the supplies will come in handy, especially for the 3,500 students who are experiencing homelessness.
“When it’s kids from kindergarten all the way up through high school, living in cars, living in hotel rooms, living on the street, nobody should have to do that,” said Brooks Jones, a customer service representative with Sunbelt Rentals. “Parents and kids should not have to worry about where they are getting their next meal or even school supplies, clothing, and stuff like that.”
Back-to-school favorites were collected by the company, which rents out tools and heavy equipment and has several stores in Jacksonville.
Common supplies were backpacks, notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, glue sticks, scissors and calculators. They were all rounded up as a part of the company’s second “Tools for Schools” supplies drive.
Donovan Bardier, SunBelt Rentals’ North Florida district manager, said this is their way of extending a helping hand.
“Being someone or an organization that can really try to give back [means a lot],” Bardier said. “Not letting those students feel that pain or show up on the first day or last day of school with the supplies they need. Not have to have the awareness to them being homeless and not having to show those cards.”
The supply drive surged this year. After collecting just 8,000 supplies in 2022 in the Tampa area alone, SunBelt Rentals has collected more than 261,000 supplies throughout Florida this year.
That includes more than 17,000 from its Jacksonville locations.
“This allows them to go to school,” Pough said. “They do not have to worry about their supplies. They have their pencils, their pens. They can start on a good note. We want everyone to feel the same.”
There are a couple of different ways that students will be able to get the supplies.
Duval County families who are a part of the McKinney-Vento program can show up to the Parent Resource Center on Boulevard Center Drive to request supplies. Parents have the option of reaching out to their student’s specific school to let the administration know what their child needs.
SunBelt Rentals plans to do another drop-off next week for St. Johns County students.