Jun 10, 2015 - News

Classroom Central provides school supplies to more than 100,000 school kids in poverty in greater Charlotte

Classroom Central

Classroom Central

While most kids and parents are shifting into summer vacation mode, Classroom Central is gearing up for its busiest fundraising season of the year, collecting the money and products necessary to distribute free school supplies to students in need when class is back in session this fall.

Yesterday Classroom Central kicked off its #JuneRestock campaign, a crowd sourced fundraiser aimed at bringing in $29,000 in just 10 days to help purchase school supplies for the more than 50% of school children living in poverty in the greater Charlotte area.

Classroom Central Charlotte
supplies Classroom Central

I visited the warehouse to learn about what they do, see behind the scenes and put at least a little dent in sorting and bagging hundreds of markers.

Classroom Central Free Store

School supplies at Classroom Central are distributed to students by way of their teachers who can access the supplies in four ways:

(1) Classroom Central Free Store – a fully stocked pop-up store at the Wilkinson Boulevard warehouse where teachers can shop for free throughout the year

Classroom Central Mobile Free Store

(2) Classroom Up – a first of its kind online store for ordering free basics (copy paper, notebooks, notebook paper, pencils and pens) for delivery

(3) Mobile Free Store – a store on wheels designed to reach more remote schools

(4) Backpacks & Basics – a corporate sponsor-backed program for high poverty schools (85% free reduced lunch rate or higher) that provides a backpack filled with supplies for every student

Classroom Central

A curious fact about school supplies is that the financial burden of purchasing most of them falls not on the school but on the teachers themselves. With North Carolina ranking a dismal 42nd nationwide in teacher pay, it seems out of line to ask them to spend what little money they make on the supplies necessary to do their jobs.

Classroom Central Warehouse

While I was at the warehouse they told me about one teacher who estimated she spent about $3,000 on supplies annually.

This is ridiculous.

Classroom Central provides a critical service that allows teachers to access the supplies they need to help their students learn… for free.

Classroom Central empty boxes

Two things jumped out at me on my visit–not about what Classroom Central does but how they do it: the warehouse is meticulously inventoried and organized and nothing goes to waste.

I think three different people apologized to me for the condition of the warehouse, saying it’s in a state of reorganization for the summer but all I could think was, “Man, they run a tight ship.”

Everything is labeled, counted, categorized and this, I think, helps to ensure it all gets into the hands that need it as efficiently as possible.

Paper is a precious resource around here with generous donations from Domtar rationed to two reams per teacher per year. With that level of supply and demand, there is tremendous respect for every item that comes through the door.

Even boxes are broken down, baled and sold, and scrap paper is shredded and packed into bags of “confetti”.

When I was a kid, back to school time was better than Christmas to me. I literally created countdown calendars for the beginning of school (not the end) and would dutifully write my name on every single supply my mom bought me, down to each crayon, so everyone would know it was mine.

Classroom Central gives that experience to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have it, and it’s not just about the possession of stuff. Classroom Central teachers report the supplies have a positive influence on test performance, timeliness and completion rate of assignments, student behavior and quality of students’ work.

So it’s more than just pencils. I am about this.

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