At the end of last summer, Forbes’ contributor Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle reported that some parents were spending more than $1,000 dollars on back to school supplies. If you ask Matthew Gerace, a rising tenth grader at Lancaster Country Day School, spending this large sum of money is unnecessary. “I remember when I was in sixth grade, and I would see different people just throwing their stuff away when it could still be used. You’d just see people dumping stuff from their lockers into the trash cans. When you go back to school shopping it is really expensive. Some people buy all new stuff when it wasn’t even used or opened,” he explains.
Matthew, who grew up in California, has connections with family and friends who donate gently used school supplies through a program that brings the donated items to local schools in need of it. After hearing about this, Matthew became inspired to bring this generous project here to Pennsylvania. For the past two years, Matthew has put bins throughout his school during the last few weeks when students are cleaning out their desks and lockers. Once the school year was complete, Matthew brought all of the donations home and organized all of the items, from cleaning out binders to make them look brand new to bundling up similar writing utensils.
On Thursday, June 16 Matthew came to Opportunity House with multiple boxes and a large trash bag filled with binders in tow. The contents inside all of these boxes, which ranged from folders and textbooks to Expo Markers and Crayola Crayons, contained all of the school supplies that he has collected over the past two years. The most recent school year has proved to be the most successful, as Matthew created a PowerPoint presentation to explain the purpose of collecting the school supplies to his classmates. He describes the presentation as having “a big impact” since not everyone seemed to understand the project’s objective when he first initiated it two years ago.
Matthew’s sister Isabella was also vital to helping collect so many donations this year alone. As a rising eighth grader, Isabella was able to reach out to the middle school students that Matthew was unable to reach directly from the high school. As a result, more people became involved, and even a number of teachers were happy to donate to the cause. “At our school, when people have an idea to help out a lot of people are really supportive,” concludes Matthew.
Unpacking the donated school supplies as they are delivered to Opportunity House.
A look at some of the donated school supplies.
This support reached far, as the kind actions of Matthew and Isabella will allow both the children in Opportunity House’s shelter and at the Second Street Learning Center to have various school supplies. “The families living in the shelter rely on us for their school needs, and we begin to think about school supplies and uniforms as soon as school ends,” explains Kathy Haggerty-Kase, Director of Annual Giving at Opportunity House. She continues, “It is so inspiring to see young adults like Matthew and Isabella who recognize the needs of those less fortunate and do something to make someone’s life better. We are so grateful for their dedication to our mission and for their time and effort in collecting and refurbishing the school supplies. The plan they put in action has helped us achieve our goals.”
Matthew knew that he wanted to donate the items he collected to a place “that really needed the supplies and wouldn’t just sell it for money again.” He explains, “We just wanted to make an impact on the local community. We had some other places throughout the community in mind, but we felt that this location would make one of the biggest impacts.” The generosity and thoughtfulness of the Gerace siblings has allowed us to make an impact on the lives of many here at Opportunity House, and we thank them for that.
Matthew poses for a picture with his sister, Isabella, who helped him collect school supplies to donate to Opportunity House.