The political climate in North Carolina has been tense lately, especially regarding education. Cuts to public school funding have been significant over the past several years and teachers struggle to provide even the most basic supplies and materials to their students. That’s where Durham, NC nonprofit Crayons2Calculators steps in. Regardless of politics, they believe teachers shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to supply their classrooms.
A Funding Deficit In Classrooms
When classrooms are underfunded and teachers don’t have the supplies they need to efficiently and effectively teach, it interferes with students’ learning. According to statistics on the Crayons2Calculators website, 75% of teachers say that a lack of supplies hinders their ability to implement their desired lessons.
Founded in 2006 by a group of Duke University undergrads, Crayons2Calculators’ mission is to serve the educational and creative needs of students in Durham Public Schools by providing free school supplies to classroom teachers.
Their first year, C2C gave $9,000 worth of classroom supplies to 84 teachers across five elementary schools. Over the last 10 years they’ve grown exponentially, and last year were able to serve more than 800 Durham teachers with over $250,000 worth of classroom supplies.
C2C focuses specifically on Durham Public schools because 65% of students in Durham Public Schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, which means they live at or near the poverty level. Durham parents simply cannot afford to provide the supplies their children need for school, and teachers don’t have the funding to provide those supplies either.
“Teachers are currently spending up to $1,000 out of their own pockets each year to supply their classrooms. When your base salary is less than $40,000, it hurts to spend $1,000 of it on basic supplies like pencils, paper, and binders,” said Julie Marshall, Executive Director of Crayons2Calculators.
Addressing The Problem
To ensure that all Durham students have equal access to educational resources, Crayons2Calculators operates a warehouse that provides school supplies to Durham teachers for free. While the organization’s ultimate goal is to be able to provide supplies to all Durham Public Schools teachers regardless of need or grade level, they currently use a tiered need-based system to qualify which school’s teachers are eligible to ‘shop’ for free supplies at the C2C warehouse.
“Need is determined by the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Currently teachers from 34 Durham public schools are eligible to ‘shop’ for supplies at the C2C warehouse.” Last year C2C served more than 800 local teachers with over $250,000 worth of classroom supplies.
The current breakdown is:
- Eleven elementary schools with 85% or higher free/reduced lunch, monthly shopping trips worth approximately $50-$75.
- Eleven elementary schools with 50%-85% free/reduced lunch, semi-annual shopping trips worth approximately $100-$150.
- Eight elementary schools with less than 50% free/reduced lunch, annual shopping trip worth approximately $100-$150.
- Four middle schools with 70% or higher free/reduced lunch, semi-annual shopping trips worth approximately $100-$150.
The warehouse also hosts several annual giveaways for first year teachers and art teachers, as well as a Binder Blowout where all DPS teachers are invited to select overstocked items like binders, file folders, wastebaskets, and hole punchers.
As Crayons2Calculators continues to grow in size and funding they will expand their tiered system to include all middle schools and high schools, until they have realized their goal of being able to serve all Durham Public Schools teachers.
How They Do It
Through a variety of grants and donations of cash and supplies, and with the help of more than 200 volunteers, Crayons2Calculators is able to maintain a permanent warehouse stocked with school supplies vital to student success. Because C2C is focused on providing the supplies teachers and students need to focus on learning rather than working around a supply deficit, they focus supply purchases for the warehouse on the Durham Public Schools back-to-school supply list.
C2C is fortunate to receive a good deal of grant support from such sources as the Durham Rotary Club, Wal-Mart State Giving Program, the Duke Community Care Fund, Durham Merchants Association Charitable Foundation, and the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation. Grants are generally used to purchase supplies to stock C2C’s warehouse shelves.
Cash donations help cover costs for collecting, storing, and distributing supplies from the warehouse and supplement their supply purchasing funds. They also receive generous donations of supplies from local businesses like Brame School & Office Supplies and Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores, as well as through local supply drives.
How You Can Be Involved
You can support Crayons2Calculators in their mission to provide teachers with free classroom supplies in several ways.
Volunteer—C2C has a dedicated base of volunteers who help at the warehouse and at special events. Volunteer team members provide logistical support such as inventory management, ‘shopping’ aids, teacher ‘checkout,’ and other roles. Contact Crayons2Calculators to learn more about how you can join their volunteer team.
Donate—as C2C continues to grow and meet the supply needs for more Durham teachers, their need for donations also grows. You can support C2C’s growth through monetary and supply donations at any time. All donations are tax deductible and vital to the continued success of Crayons2Calculators’ mission of service. Even the smallest donations make a difference.
Host a Supply Drive—supply drives hosted by neighborhoods, businesses, churches, and others help support C2C’s mission of providing free school supplies to teachers in high need schools. Check out these helpful tips from Crayons2Calculators to ensure that your drive is a success.
Fill That Bus!
C2C’s largest supply drive each year is the Fill That Bus campaign, which was started by the Durham Rotary Clubs and proved so successful that it became a staple event for Crayons2Calculators.
Fill That Bus is a month-long supply drive that occurs in July/August before school starts. The 2014 Fill That Bus drive brought in more than $100,000 in supplies and monetary donations, and the 2015 drive broke that record with $125,000. This year’s goal is to break last record with $135,000 worth of donations.
This year’s Fill That Bus drive will kick off on July 24 with a huge party at Blue Note Grill in Durham. The party will feature live music and several raffles for Durham staycation goodies like meals out, massages, and a weekend getaway. Blue Note Grill has also pledged to donate 10% of their party receipts for school supply purchases.
During the month-long Fill That Bus drive, about 400 supply bins will be set up at local area businesses to accept donations of supplies—Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina will have 45 bins at their headquarters alone. Visit C2C’s website for a full list of suggested supplies for donation.
Fill That Bus will finish on August 20, just in time for the school year to start on August 27. Be on the lookout for Fill That Bus bins and events in Durham to make your own supply donations.