A confession: I am one of those people who excessively repeats things I hear on NPR. Last year, Mark Lloyd’s efforts to provide portable toilets to homeless Seattleites included the quote “If you have moral clarity, you aren’t in deep enough.” Which I love. Or recently a story called into question the value of innovative distance learning solutions during the pandemic, recognizing that the most important question for “30 million kids who depend on U.S. schools for free or reduced-price meals: Are they eating?”
I love learning about challenges and solutions to problems big or small. And when I heard Ashley Thibodeaux speaking on the program Out to Lunch, I got excited. She described that as her company, Bart’s Office, relocates a corporate client, they are frequently left with boxes of surplus office supplies and materials, which they want to donate. But don’t have a good process.
That same day I called Bart’s Office and said: “those office supplies you don’t know what to do with; I have an idea…”
Now, boxes of materials that formerly were left in limbo are finding their way to local classrooms through our Teacher Free-Store. A Bart’s Office truck pulls up, and we unload binders, folders, markers, chart paper, whiteboards, poster holders, hole punches, pencil sharpeners, and more. Teachers in need can visit and browse, or place an order for curbside pickup (during COVID-19 occupancy restrictions).
And thus was born the win-win-win-win-win.
- Bart’s Office wins, because they now have a process to contribute the materials that were impeding their process. They’re able to keep items out of the landfill and repurpose them effectively for local classrooms
- STEM Library Lab wins because we engage new teachers through the Free-Store who then also discover our Equipment Lending Co-op, our Copy/Print Center, and other resources to make teachers’ lives easier
- The corporate clients and individual donors win because they donate old materials as charitable contributions
- Teachers win, because they now have free access to the resources they need to effectively manage their classrooms
- And, of course, Students Win, because well-resourced classrooms mean happier, more productive learning environments!
I find it extremely satisfying to realize that doing good does not have to be a zero-sum game. The Teacher Free-Store proves this point. As we built the Free-Store, people would remark “I wonder why this didn’t exist already” Truthfully, it is not in anyone’s interest to go to the trouble of starting it. Running the Free-Store takes time, energy, money, and physical space, while the materials are just given away – so it’s not exactly a profit center. But now that it exists, we have created a platform benefiting the whole community, bringing people together around a much needed solution.
In addition to Bart’s Office, we partner with a variety of sources to keep the Teacher Free-Store stocked, including retired educators, local universities like Holy Cross, as well as corporate partners and organizations including Office Depot, Shell, and the Sewerage and Water Board.
If your business or organization has surplus materials for in-kind donation, reach out and we’ll connect them to local classrooms! We handle office supplies, decorations, and consumables, as well as furniture, which we can distribute to schools directly.