Guest post by Sharla Collins
1. The students
Classroom Central accomplishes a lot, but at the core, their mission is to make sure children have the basic supplies needed to learn. Children living in poverty often have a variety of obstacles to overcome, and Classroom Central makes sure that these kids have one less issue impeding their success in the classroom. As a volunteer, whether you’re working in the free store helping teachers obtain supplies, delivering supplies directly to classrooms, or collecting items to donate school supplies, YOU are supporting these students and helping provide the essential tools they need!
2. The teachers
We ask teachers to do a lot (seriously, I don’t think I’d last more than a day in their shoes!) – and with increasingly limited resources. Classroom Central alleviates some of that burden and provides teachers in low-income schools with the basic school supplies their kids need. As a volunteer, you see this impact live, in action – when you volunteer in the free store, you will hear teachers repeatedly express gratitude for the ability to walk away with supplies for their classrooms and kids.
Speaking of teachers expressing gratitude in the free store shopping experience, the spirit of thankfulness abounds at Classroom Central. The staff is always thanking volunteers and teachers for supporting the programs, teachers are saying “thank you!” with heartfelt enthusiasm when receiving supplies, and the kids send in bright, colorful thank you notes of appreciation, that Classroom Central often shares on Facebook and other social media sites. As a volunteer, the spirit of gratitude will permeate your experience!
4. Free store
Ok, now that I’ve covered the big-picture stuff, let’s shift focus. I’ve volunteered a lot of places, but nearly none are as neat as Classroom Central’s free store in Charlotte, NC. It’s organized like a typical retail store experience, where teachers come in to “shop” by selecting available educational items. Want to know the coolest thing about the free store? It’s nearly completely operated by volunteers! As a volunteer, you may help in the warehouse, provide service to teachers on the shop floor, help with the “checkout” process, or load items into teachers’ cars. As a routine checkout volunteer, I can confirm – lines are never as long as the local Walmart or Target. :)
5. Crayons, Markers, Pencils OH MY!
Is there anything better than the smell of a fresh box of crayons? There is something about seeing the supplies lined up in the store, or packaged into the bags for the Backpacks and Basics program that speaks directly to your heart and your spirit. The promise of a future is universal to all children, and I think that seeing these supplies brings us all back to a point in our lives when we, ourselves, were behind a desk, with our own future before us, unwritten. As a volunteer, you get to take a minute, and smell the crayons.
6. This smile.
7. This note.
At Classroom Central, there are a variety of ways to help support the programs, and there really is something available for everyone. As a volunteer, you can attend and help with events supporting Classroom Central, volunteer in the free teacher store, collect supplies, create engagement opportunities at your employer, help in the warehouse, provide administrative or other operational/office support, among other things. You can volunteer once a week, once a month, once a year – whatever works for your schedule. In the most recent volunteer update, there are over 10 different types of volunteer opportunities for ways to help this month!
If your company is anything like mine, finding ways to give back to the local community are important to the organization’s core mission and senior leadership. Classroom Central offers regular opportunities for corporate and business volunteer teams to support their programs, and it makes for an excellent teambuilding exercise. Plus, any opportunity to get out of the business casual rut and sport jeans and t-shirts is a bonus, in my book!
10. The impact.
Classroom Central’s impact in the local schools is impressive. They support 100,000+ students in 200+ schools among six of the local school districts (CMS, Gaston, Iredell/Statesvill, Union, City of Kannapolis, Lancaster) with free school supplies. Over 50% of our region’s students are living in poverty, and Classroom Central does not receive any funding from the government, school systems, or United Way. These programs rely solely on the generosity of donors and volunteers, like YOU.
Are you looking for a way to give your time and energy to support your local community? Are you passionate about education and supporting children living in poverty? Do you just start grinning ear-to-ear uncontrollably when you look at the girl in item #6 above? If so, reach out to Classroom Central, and find out the best way for you to get involved and support their programs. For more information, see the Classroom Central - Fast Facts or the Classroom Central - Ways to Help info sheets.
Sharla Collins enjoys organizing collection drives for Classroom Central, volunteers regularly in the free teacher store, and recently joined the Community Engagement Committee. She works in Enterprise Risk Management at Ally Financial, Inc. and is passionate about giving back in the community, especially in serving the needs of local children.