Adventures in Volunteering: Books to Kids Project - Schoolhouse Supplies

Does anyone else find a large bin full of erasers fun? Doesn't it just bring up memories from your first day of kindergarten? Okay - I don't really remember that first day...but pencil top erasers definitely remind me of grade school. I love the look of them, and the colors, and the feel of them--and if you have a large storage container full--it's like you have taken 6.5 years off your life. Which means I am back in my 20's!!!

And what about rows and rows of pencils? That's definitely a third grade memory. Third grade is where you really start working hardcore on your writing skills and you do a lot of pencil sharpening in third grade (this is a proven scientific fact I think).

A few weekends ago, my friends and I volunteered at Schoolhouse Supplies (Portland, OR) and helped at a project called Books to Kids. We have the most amazing book store in Portland, Powells, and every month, Powells donates 4 million books to Schoolhouse Supplies.  I'm just estimating...but it seemed like 4 million. The books are all sorted, shelved and then local teachers can come through and pick out a number of books for their classrooms or for particular kids. It's a great recycling program.  And this is only a success because of the wonderful donors (like Powells) and via the hard work one Saturday a month by a group of volunteers. Like us!

The books come in boxes that weigh more than any non-Bruce Banner-human can even push over. It's just FULL of books, kids books, text books, adult stories, language books, teaching guides, parenting books, etc. The day we went, there were about 4 of these enormous boxes of books donated - which the group of 10-12 of us had to sort and shelf.

Someone actually had to crawl up into the box when it started to get about halfway empty because we could no longer easily bend over and reach to pull them out.  I wanted to take a picture of her but she looked a bit grumpy and not everyone loves to have their picture taken while bending over in a large box.

We each grabbed a stack of books and then sorted them via some very vague guidelines about which grade they would be in. My friend Alison and I didn't necessarily agree with the guidelines - because we know better than the "professional" book sorters.And I have a child and Alison is barely old enough to not be called a child, so we believed ourselves to be experts. you grab a big handful from the grumpy bent over lady and then you drop them in the shopping cart, which are all labeled with grade levels.
After we did our stint as book sorters, we moved on to the shelving part of the project.
Most of the shelves are easy and you just put all the books on the shelves. However, someone must have noticed that Alison and I are Book Experts, because we were given the harder section to shelf: The Teachers Resource Section. Where we had to actually think about what category each book would go into, science, teaching materials, geography, etc....We did a lot of staring at shelves. And debating on where certain books would go. And whining to each other about how hard it is. And how stupid some books are. It was a lot of fun. It was an honor to be entrusted with this important job!

During the event, volunteers are challenged to pick out a book or two that they think is the funniest - like a funny title or a funny cover.  At the end of the event, we all come together and the staff member on hand holds them up and we all laugh or groan and she picks the one she thinks is the funniest. The winner receives a t-shirt....Alison and I didn't find anything really hilarious so we didn't win, but we were winners anyway because we woke up early on a Saturday and dedicated our morning to a great cause! (and I already happen to have that t-shirt so it wasn't a big loss for me!)

Schoolhouse Supplies has been around since 1999 - and Andrew and I actually volunteered with them back in 2000 when they were new and small and cramped and not nearly as wonderfully organized as they are now! It's amazing to see how much they have grown and it's so great to see them still growing strong!

Teachers should not have to spend their own money to do their job - I never have to buy my own work supplies to be successful in my job, do you? No, of course not. Unless you are a teacher. And then you do.Unless you live in the Portland area, and then you don't have to!

What’s the average value of items that each teacher leaves with after shopping in the Free Store?


Insane, right?? That's awesome for our teachers to have this resource!

Here are their facts:

Just amazing, right?? If you live in the area, please go volunteer with them. Or donate to them! Or if you can do neither---become a fan of theirs on Facebook and show your support.

I love books.


  1. Nat said...:

    I really want to do that one of these times. Go Kaylen and Allison!

    PS- Of course you got the hardest shelving sections... genius alert!

  1. Brian Miller said...:

    that is really cool that they can provide this to the teachers...i know witht he budgets cut even further this year they could really use mom was a teacher back in teh day and i know there were penty fo times she bought stuff herself...thanks for helping out

  1. kyooty said...:

    oh the schools up here want WHITE erasers only, LOL

  1. Brandy said...:

    wow - what a great time! you are such a good little volunteer

  1. carma said...:

    yeah, you wouldn't have needed a second one of that t-shirt anyway ;-) kidding aside - you are amazing with all that you get involved with

  1. Heather said...:

    It really is an amazing resource for the teachers, I bet they love it!

  1. Anonymous said...:

    teachers everywhere need this!!!!!

    and btw....most amazing pictures ever!


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