In early 2020, PENCIL received a gift that keeps on giving – additional warehouse space.
Nearly three years ago, longtime PENCIL Partner Rogers Group, Inc. generously donated a full-fledged warehouse space so that PENCIL could house our staff and take the LP PENCIL Box, our free teacher supply store, to the next level. Having access to a loading dock and pallet racking enabled us to more than double the size of our teacher resource shop, accept tractor-trailer loads of product, and distribute more than $1.5 million dollars in supplies to Nashville teachers annually.
Early in 2020, Rogers Group not only extended PENCIL’s warehouse lease but also donated the other half of the building. PENCIL knew the expansion was going to significantly increase our volunteer capacity and ultimately get more supplies into the hands of Metro teachers and students – but we didn’t anticipate just how quickly we would need it!
PENCIL gained access to the additional space soon after Nashville was impacted by devastating tornados and the global COVID-19 pandemic. Given that three-quarters of MNPS families are live in economically distressed households, it was especially important for us to meet the significant increase in demand for our services. The additional space enabled us to play a major role in getting supplies directly into the hands of students to support at-home learning. Like many other companies and organizations, we had to reimagine how to deliver our services to best support the students we serve.
With community support, we have been able to successfully expand our efforts in support of Nashville’s public-school families. Our volunteers, partners and donors have been critical to ensuring we can pack and distribute tens of thousands of at-home supply kits.
This summer, we were honored to be asked by the United Way of Greater Nashville to absorb and distribute the student supplies donated through their Stuff The Bus campaign, assuring that thousands of MNPS students are still able to receive those basic school supplies even though community volunteers couldn’t safely come together for the traditional packing event at Nissan stadium. MNPS also utilized PENCIL’s expertise in logistics, delivery and vendor relationship to support a massive student kit supply project.
As the school year began, PNC Foundation gave PENCIL a $75,000 grant to equip 2,000 MNPS pre-kindergarten students with a robust package of at-home learning supplies as part of PNC’s Grow Up Great® initiative. The kits complemented MNPS’s Creative Curriculum, a project-based curriculum providing hands-on, authentic learning experiences—helping children to develop confidence, creativity, and lifelong critical thinking skills.
“I can’t begin to tell you how appreciative we are for the partnership between PNC, PENCIL and MNPS to provide materials to our Pre-K families,” said Phyllis Phillips, Director of Pre-Kindergarten Programs at MNPS. “The materials can really help to make learning fun, engaging and motivating for students to want to learn. It’s easy to take for granted that everyone has a pencil or crayons, when the reality is that many do not. Through this partnership, families were not only provided pencils and crayons, but manipulatives for hands on learning so that students will be able to actually see and feel letters when writing or manipulating letters to spell out their names and using numbers or objects to create sets for counting. This means so much to MNPS and to our families.”
Supplies for the student kits continue to move through the warehouse, while also preserving the services of our LP PENCIL Box. During the school year, teachers have been able to shop in-person—spacing out and keeping strict appointments to ensure everyone is physically distanced while they access our inventory—or receive supplies through our curbside pickup.
Because of our generous supporters, PENCIL has been able to distribute more than $1.8M worth of school supplies to students and teachers during this challenging year.
PENCIL was honored to recently be named a 2020 Bank of America Neighborhood Builder, which provides $200,000 in flexible funding over the next two years that will support our staff’s leadership development, increase how many supplies we can pack and distribute, and grow the utilization of the LP PENCIL Box, ultimately preparing us to serve more teachers, students, and classrooms. Additionally, a grant from the Tennessee Community CARES Fund has helped us convert the raw warehouse space into a comfortable environment where volunteers can safely work but also, one day soon, become a dedicated volunteer and training center.
Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, expressed how valuable our warehouse expansion project is for MNPS. “PENCIL has been a great resource in addressing student needs across the district. From continuing to operate the LP PENCIL Box for teacher shopping, to receiving and distributing supplies for MNPS K-12 students, the additional workspace at the LP PENCIL Box made this all possible. With these grant dollars, that space can now be used without any hesitation, volunteer shifts can be expanded, and the team at PENCIL can continue to serve our students.”
Updating our infrastructure is no easy task, but thanks to our incredible PENCIL Partners – Hiller, Stansell, R.C. Mathews and DPR – PENCIL will have a renovated warehouse at the start of the new year. The warehouse will include a new HVAC system, extra workspaces to allow for more socially distanced volunteer stations, more restrooms, and the installation of pallet racks for product storage.
To us, there is no greater priority than supporting our students and teachers, and thanks to our caring community, PENCIL can continue to provide equitable access to much needed resources.