It was quite a shopping spree for principals from nine of our district’s highest needs schools selecting innovative classroom furniture at the EDspaces Convention at the Tampa Convention Center. The best part about it – more than $200,000 worth of furniture didn’t cost the Achievement Schools a penny.
One of the vendors, Paragon Furniture, decided to donate the furniture on display at the convention, instead of shipping it back to headquarters.
“This is the first year we’ve donated our entire booth to a school. It’s $40-50,000 worth of product that we thought would help the kids out,” said Matt Coyne, Paragon Furniture Eastern Regional Sales Manager. “The product all comes in from Texas. We took a couple truck trailers to bring the product in, if we took it back – it’s not going to do any good for us back there, it’s more benefit here to the kids.”
It was a nice surprise for the Hillsborough Education Foundation.
“I got this call from Paragon – they wanted to donate their floor display,” said Kim Jowell, Hillsborough Education Foundation President.
HEF partnered with our district to identify nine out of our 50 Achievement Schools to participate: Foster, Potter, Burney and B.T. Washington Elementary Schools, Pizzo K-6/Patel Lower Campus, Woodson PreK-8 Leadership Academy, Dunbar and Lockhart Elementary Magnet Schools and Sligh Middle Magnet School.
District leaders selected schools based on need or current quality of furniture, some facing challenges could benefit from the positive pick-me-up, others were selected by a random drawing.
“It’s like Christmas in November, because our students are not exposed to brand-new materials like this. We don’t have the PTA funding, or outside funding or sponsorships, and so this is going to be so exciting for them to see,” said Foster Elementary School Principal Francine Lazarus.
“We wanted to show our support to those schools that we know have a higher climb and a little more challenges and show them our support,” said Jowell. “Seeing the principals come in and their eyes in awe of the many things, we’re fortunate to facilitate this donation to 9 Achievement Schools.”
But Jowell hoped more of the 220 vendors at the convention would also be willing to donate like Paragon Furniture.
“He showed me all of the wonderful things, and I said, ‘Why aren’t more people doing what you’re doing?’ Fortunately, EdMarket when they go to locations, they do promote to give back to the community instead of incurring the extra freight costs,” Jowell said.
So, district leaders, principals and staff members scoured the convention center floor, scoped out the furniture their schools needed, and asked other companies if they’d like to donate as well. It was worth asking – vendors generously donated more than $200,000 in classroom furniture and equipment.
“We got very excited when they said yes,” Lazarus said with a huge smile. “For companies to realize that there are schools, in every county that they’re having these conferences, that are so needy that don’t have the funding to purchase the materials – it’s so generous of the companies.”
Crews from our district disassembled the donated displays and loaded up the furniture after the conference. The principals couldn’t wait for the very special delivery at their schools.
“They’re getting the new things that are going to help engage them and be excited about learning, so this is very, very exciting – and for our teachers, too,” Lazarus said.
“I knew this would be a great opportunity to help the schools, we want to see education and kids flourish,” said Coyne.
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