Crayons to Computers (C2C) is a "Teacher's Free Store" providing new and recycled school supplies at no cost to 110 needy schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. Started in February 1997, Crayons to Computers grew out of a group project of Leadership Cincinnati and the creative vision of retailer Shannon Carter. Headed by a board of trustees and President, the Crayons to Computers volunteers work to ensure that the major goal of this non-profit organization, to make a lasting impact on children's lives by enhancing educational resources, is achieved.
Founder and board president Shannon Carter opened the store in 1997 with the motivation of serving the more than 50,000 children in Cincinnati. Since then, her idea has flourished with help from a network of businesses such as Proctor and Gamble, Gibson, The Kroger Co. and United Dairy Farmers, which donate surplus materials to the store.
Schoolteachers selected to participate in this program are deemed eligible based on the poverty index. Those schools that have 69% of students enrolled in the free or reduced price lunch program are allowed to shop for supplies at Crayons to Computers. In the eight counties that the program serves, teachers often have to provide money from their own pockets to supplement the minimal supplies the school is able to purchase for student use. Approximately 95% of the volunteers who assist with Crayons to Computers are teachers themselves, thus illustrating the extent of teacher support for the program.
The organization's partnership with the Free Store/Food Bank supplies the 6,000 square feet of warehouse space, product and parking that is necessary to maintain optimal operation. With 1032 working computers placed in classrooms and more than $2,465,000 of goods distributed to its credit, the "free store" is an endless reservoir of materials available to teachers so that students have the supplies necessary to obtain a quality education.
In addition to its base of operation, Crayons to Computers has expanded and branched out into other aspects of volunteer service. "Crafts with Conviction," a program that involves correctional facilities in Ohio, allows inmates to create journals, flashcards and holiday ornaments from materials donated to C2C and then returns the finished product for the teachers to use in their classrooms. C2C is also affiliated with Matthew 25: Ministries (M25M), a non-profit church-based organization that donates school and hospital supplies to Nicaragua and Honduras. Crayons to Computers is working to expand its impact nationally through a collaboration with SHOPA (School, Home, Office Products Association). Stores modeled after Crayons to Computers were opened in Orlando and Atlanta in the fall 1998.
The need for more stores like this one is clear – quality education requires basic learning tools such as pencils, paper, and notebooks. Crayons to Computers seeks to fill this need while preventing the throwaway of usable, surplus product of all types that can be used by needy children.