Thursday, August 15, 2002

Crayons to Computers: A program that works

Free school items stocked

By Tom O'Neill,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In some classrooms, the little things are big. Like packets of Post-it notes. Construction paper. Folders. And pencils.

        Gold, all.

[photo] Kayla Boyd, a fifth-grade teacher at McKinley Accelerated School in Middletown, shops for her classroom at Crayons to Computers.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        This is the lesson school teachers began to understand in February 1997, when the innovative program Crayons to Computers first provided free classroom material to 22 Tristate schools. Today, it serves teachers at 321 area schools.

        More than $13.5 million in donated supplies later, Diane Kreiner spent Tuesday afternoon stocking up on classroom items that she, for years, had paid for herself. She was one of dozens of teachers from schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students who were pushing shopping carts through the Crayons to Computers warehouse in Bond Hill.

        “We have a lot of disadvantaged youth who can't afford these basic things,” said Ms. Kreiner, who teaches family and consumer science at Lockland High School. She begins her 22nd year of teaching on Aug. 26.

        “Post-it notes,” she said, smiling. “That's a real treat for me.”

   In past 12 months:
   Teacher visits: 17,664.
   Average sales per day: $26,236.
   Average sale per trip: $257.
   Volunteer hours: 15,288.
   Biggest corporate contributors: International Paper, Kroger and Procter & Gamble.
   To make a financial contribution, send checks to Crayons to Computers, 1250 Tennessee Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229, or call 482-7095. Items can be dropped off there, too. It's in Bond Hill, off Reading Road, just south of the Norwood Lateral.
        The Crayons to Computers goal is to get basic school supplies into the hands of as many needy students as possible. There are 21 such programs nationally. Typically, the programs have a small paid staff, but rely heavily on corporate and individual donations as well as volunteers.

        Tuesday's “shoppers” were from dozens of local schools, including elementaries in Mount Airy, Millvale and Newport. The Crayons to Computers warehouse reopened for the school year last Monday. This week, it was abuzz with volunteers, including retired teachers and those still in the classroom who become eligible to “shop” here by volunteering.

        “They love it,” said Crayons to Computers president and CEO Shannon Carter. To be eligible to fill one shopping cart, teachers must be from a school where 60 percent of students receive free or reduced-cost lunches. That's 140 schools in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. They can return periodically during the school year.

        Teachers at another 181 area schools qualify through volunteering. That's what brought Deb Price to the 10,000-square-foot Bond Hill warehouse on Tuesday. She's a health technologies teacher at Live Oaks Career Development Center in Miami Township, Clermont County, and has been a volunteer here since 1998.

        “Kids arrive, no pens, no notebooks — and this is high school,” she said.

        Tonya Bray is a little nervous. She begins her first day of teaching at Losantiville Elementary later this month. Fifth grade, math and science. “I want to start a class store, incentives for attendance, going above and beyond,” she said.

        Constance LeGrange came over to say hello. Ms. LeGrange teaches sixth-grade math and science at Losantiville. She filled her cart with pencils, paper and Ohio prisoner-made seat covers, which slip over the backs of seats and have pockets for school supplies.

        A third of all items donated last year came from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's “Crafts with Conviction” program, where inmates volunteer to make supplies.


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