Surplus office supplies help local students

Surplus office supplies help local students

By Kaitlyn Riopelle

Surplus office supplies help local students

By Kaitlyn Riopelle
Green U, the University of Miami’s Office of Sustainability, collects and donates supplies each year that are shared with Miami-Dade County schoolchildren.

As summer wraps up and the new school year begins, many of the needs and inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to affect students in public schools and their families. Through a partnership with a local organization, University staff and faculty members have the opportunity to donate unused office supplies to community members in need.  

As a community partner, Green U, the University of Miami’s Office of Sustainability, contributes to the efforts of The Education Fund every year. Working with more than 55 private sector partners, The Education Fund serves students and teachers in Miami-Dade County by providing donated school supplies, teacher training, and access to fresh food through their Food Forests for Schools program.

The University of Miami boasts several ReUse initiatives, including a store where students, faculty, and staff can acquire surplus or gently-used office supplies that members of the UM community no longer need. There you can find office equipment and small electronics along with supplies like binders, organizational items, and electric staplers. In addition to the ReUse Store, GreenU also donates surplus office supplies to community organizations like The Education Fund. “We collaborate every year by donating surplus office supplies we collect through the Green U program ReUse,” explained Teddy Lhoutellier, sustainability manager at the University’s Office of Sustainability. The University of Miami’s ReUse initiatives include more than facilitating donations to community organizations. These donated materials—which may otherwise go unused, go bad, or get thrown away—continue to benefit Miami-Dade students in need. 

Founded in 1985, The Education Fund, an independent nonprofit organization, supports students through 12th grade. It has helped hundreds of thousands of students in Miami-Dade County public schools each year. It works to direct resources where most needed and/or where inequities exist; develop school leaders and train teachers to help more children succeed; educate the community on issues in our local public schools; and bring innovative teaching methods to schools, ensuring all children have an opportunity to reach their full potential and graduate with every opportunity for success.

As the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the world approached education in 2020, the group saw a new need emerging—students and families no longer had the support provided by teachers and their school community. For many, that meant families now were expected to provide many of the supplies and technology typically available in the classroom. 

That’s where the organization stepped in. Kirsten Lyon, program manager, described its new role as students and families were sequestered at home during the 2020-21 school year: “When COVID-19 closed schools, low-income students sheltering at home no longer had access to learning tools—crayons, reading/picture books, markers, and other items that bring learning alive,” she said.

“When schools shut down, we knew that students had no access to supplies, nor did teachers have adequate training to successfully teach in a distance-learning format,” Lyon added.

Staff members at The Education Fund rapidly transitioned their operation from an in-person facility where teachers could shop 11,000 square feet of donated supplies to a curbside pickup program where students and their families could directly get supplies. “Within a week, we created a new distribution system and significantly expanded our supply chain. So that hundreds of thousands of students and families in need throughout Miami-Dade County could get essential school and household supplies,” Lyon pointed out. These supplies extended beyond the usual educational material. The Education Fund and its community partners—like the University of Miami’s Office of Sustainability—helped to provide household essentials, like toilet paper and other basic goods. 

Now, as schools gear up to welcome students in person and the pandemic continues to change shape, the group reminds residents that  the community needs to continue its support, so that children and teachers—whether in the classroom or at home—have the tools they need for academic success.

To offer your assistance, bring spare supplies to the GreenU office where staff members will donate them to The Education Fund. To donate directly to The Education Fund’s community initiatives, visit www.educationfund.org/how-to-help where you also can volunteer your time.

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Subscribe to Green U’s monthly newsletter and visit miami.edu/sustainability for more.


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