MPD, House of Compassion partner to Stuff the Bus

T-R FILE PHOTO The annual Stuff the Bus program in Marshalltown this year is hosted by the House of Compassion and the Marshalltown Police Department. It will bring numerous children the necessary tools to start the school year successfully.

The Marshalltown Fraternal Order of Police and House of Compassion have teamed up this year for the annual Stuff The Bus, which will take place Aug. 4 through Aug. 6, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Director of the House of Compassion Chad Hammar said the House started the program 21 years ago.

“We saw a need, we are a social service agency. We deal with a lot of clients who have kids in school, on the low income side of things and their situation,” Hammar said, “So we’ve always known there’s a need for that. It’s just grown over the years. The same as the Fraternal Order, the numbers increase every year.

Sergeant Andrew Cole of the Marshalltown Police Department said the department has been doing initiatives to give back to the community for years.

“This has been something the Fraternal Order of Police has been doing. I came back to Marshalltown in 2008. And we’ve been doing it since then. So it’s always been just kind of one of our things that we know there’s a need, and one of the philanthropy projects that we like to do to help build relationships with our youth in our community, and just to build a healthy youth in our community, making sure that they have all the school supplies they need,” Cole said.

The goal is to make sure every kid has the chance to step into the school year with the right tools.

“There’s nothing better than at the beginning of the year to start off the school year with brand new school supplies….those new pencils, that new pack, those kinds of things,” he said.

Cole said House of Compassion and the MPD had been working parallel to each other without their knowledge. The connection between the entities were formed through the Community Foundation of Marshall County.

Hammar partnering with Cole and the MPD provided an opportunity to come up with new ideas.

“We’re very glad to have the Fraternal Order with us. It’s just great. Because Sergeant Cole and I, the more we talk, we have fresh ideas for how to do things. We’ve done it the same way for so long. So, we’re just honored to be working with these folks,” Hammar said.

The Stuff the Bus program encompasses all of Marshall County, not just Marshalltown Community School District. Cole said the House of Compassion and the MPD have also been working with other school districts.

“When we used to do the program, it was kind of a referral program, either through the school district or other at-risk social service programs that we work with. We would make contact with the parents,” Cole said, “But this year, they’re going to help us get bags actually in the children’s hands. We’re going to be working on making sure that they get the proper school supplies in those bags and deliver them to the school system.

Cole said the MPD is always willing to work with people who have great ideas that want to work with their community, and give kids the best opportunity to grow, be healthy, prosper and become great community members. Hammar echoed that sentiment and would like to contribute to the Local Businesses United School Supply Drive.

Cole and Hammar both agreed that anonymity is extremely important, and that schools prefer it that way because it’s more dignified.

“Anonymity with these families is nice,” Cole said. “They may have fallen on hard times because of jobs or they may be new to the area. Sometimes, with some of our minority cultures, an MBT is really good for them, because they don’t necessarily want to be advertising that they’re getting some of these types of services.”

Hammar said things will be different than what they’ve done in the past. Every year, except for last year due to the pandemic, families would come and pick up the backpacks. Cole said they used to have a bus located at Walmart and would ‘stuff that bus’ with items.

“Last year’s pandemic taught us, at that time, we did not want items. We just took cash monetary donations and we found that works very well, because we can take care of bulk pricing,” Hammar said, “We were better able to fulfill the list of items that the teachers give us for what each individual grade needs.”

This year, The House of Compassion and the Fraternal Order of Police are going to deliver to each of the schools and disperse bookbags and other items to the families. He said they will be in contact with the families to inform them what the schedule is, which is different from years past.

Hammar said he has received nothing but positive feedback for the “Stuff the Bus” program, which he sees as a success.

“I have so many people calling me just out of the blue saying I was involved with this for 10 years. ‘Let me help you with this. Let me walk you through this.’ I haven’t even met some of these folks,” Hammar said, “But to know that I have that kind of support.”

They have said one of the best parts of the program is seeing the family pick up their backpack, and seeing the excitement of the kids because they will walk into school on the first day with brand new stuff. Cole said if they can make a positive impact or receive a positive reaction out of just one child a day, it will be worth it.

“I think that’s a great thing that we’re trying to do. That’s a goal of every officer here is that we want to be seen as someone who the youth of our community can rely on who can come to help,” Cole said, “Too often, I think that we have youth that are scared of us. That’s just never a goal that we want to have. So being able to partner in this situation, if we can help 200 families and be able to lock arms that way.”

Hammar praised the Marshalltown community and the generosity of the residents.

“This truly is the most generous community. Since I’ve been here, any letter I put out, anything that we put on Facebook, there is always a response,” Hammar said, “There’s rarely a day that I go to the mailbox when there isn’t at least one check from the community and that’s a true statement. It’s incredible.”

The effort is still in the fundraising phase and volunteers are being sought. If anyone is interested in donating to the House of Compassion, visit the website


Contact Marquetta Evans at 641-753-6611 or mevans@timesrepublican.com.


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