Thursday, January 29, 2009

How to Help Schools Through Tough Times

It's no secret that most businesses are seriously hurting right now, but so are our schools!

You've probably heard that there's pending legislation that could give more federal assistance to schools later this year. Even if it the Senate passes it, and it's signed into law, those bucks will take their own sweet time trickling down to the states and schools.

What can we do in the meantime? Families are watching their pennies too. But, helping schools doesn't have to cost a dime. Just do one of these things. ONE is doable, right?

Oh, and you teachers reading this list, why not reprint it in parent or community newsletters?
  • Volunteer your PROFESSIONAL SKILLS--Whatever your profession, volunteer to do it for a school. If you're a beautician, provide the secretary with "free cut" coupons to give to their staff or neediest families--good marketing idea, too! If you're an accountant, see if they need help with their books. If you're a plumber, run the other direction! Kids manually wedge all kinds of interesting things in that long row of toilets and urinals in the little boys room. :)

  • Volunteer your TALENT/HOBBY--I don't have talent but wish I was able to enjoy my hobbies once in a GREAT while. The problem is, I can't make myself set aside time for them. When you partner with a school to share your talents/hobbies, you give yourself an excuse to spend time doing them. Now, all you amateur gardeners in Southern CA can revive the flowers around the flagpoles at your community schools. When you're done, swing by my house and, uh, straighten up all the abandoned, piecemeal landscape lights scattered underneath snow drifts and fallen icicles. (Email me for the Chicago address.)

  • Become a Teacher's Helper for the Day--Volunteer your time in a classroom. Don't worry, you don't have to have a teaching background. You may get to read to a child, play a board game with kids, or just help reorganize the room.

  • Donate SNACKS--I know first hand that the one thing teachers love almost as much as seeing kids succeed is FREE FOOD! Drop off extra packaged goodies with a nice note anytime. (I always have too many bags of chips left at my house after family get-togethers.) Better yet, call head to see when their next staff meeting is. Boy, brownies, and crackers sure make those meetings go down SOOO much easier. :)

  • Donate HOUSEHOLD stuff--We all have crapola around the house that we don't use. As you do your routine junk purges, consider whether a school could use it. Most schools accept kids' hats, gloves, scarves, office supplies, arts & crafts stuff, paper goods, cleaning wipes, etc. That reminds me...I have a price-club size bag of plastic cups that have been hogging my pantry space for 4 years. I'll send it to school next week! (Be sure to double-check with the school first to make sure they can use the items you have to give.)

  • Donate CORPORATE stuff--Betcha your place of work has stuff it needs to get rid of, too. You can either coordinate the donation yourself, or contact a place like to coordinate it for you. (We've never worked with this company before, but their website is interesting--also looks like a great place for teachers to create lists of stuff they'd like to have donated!)

Speaking of donating corporate stuff, we have to free up space in our warehouse every few years. Last November, we contacted a bunch of local schools in order to donate hands-on learning materials and toys--54 schools came and loaded up trucks! The biggest surprise was that our staff benefited just as much.

We loved reading through all the letters on our wall of thank yous from the students (see photo)! Some were hilarious--one little boy said that the person from Learning Resources who coordinated the donation should get a raise. Another kid said he felt bad that our donation coordinator had to use all of her own money to buy the donated stuff--cute! Some notes were a bit sad but very inspiring--a little girl thanked us most of all for the ruler because she had never had her own!

My favorite letter (see above) was from a child who ended her note by saying simply, "Make us smart!" This is exactly what we're all doing when we give back to schools. So go ahead, invest in children!

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