The Awards Luncheon took place on April 24th, and while we were a little sad to hear that Helen and Lolly were not among the winners of what turned out to be a highly competitive pool of nominees (114 projects from across the state were nominated for state- and regional-level consideration) we left feeling inspired by all of the amazing work being done by volunteers throughout our state.
After the awards ceremony, we were in for quite a surprise: one of the Youth Volunteers winners, Morgen Brown, selected Schoolhouse Supplies to receive her $500 prize! Her gift will go directly to support the Free Store for Teachers.
Morgen’s father is the principal of Milton-Freewater High School, which Morgen attends, so education is already a huge part of their family’s life. The true roots of her award-winning project, however, have an even simpler source – teenage boredom.
When Morgen complained about being bored early in her summer vacation last year, her mother suggested some small projects that she could do. Morgen decided she would rather ‘go big’ and, recognizing that many students in her school district faced poverty at home, began laying the groundwork for what would become the Fill a Backpack, Make a Smile project.
The goal of Fill a Backpack, Make a Smile was to provide school supplies and new shirts to students in need. (Ultimately, it also paid school fees for some students.) Morgen created a Facebook page to get the word out and soon began receiving donated supplies, money, and cans and bottles to redeem. She also organized a bake sale and a yard sale.
Walmart became a great partner for Morgen – as they have been for Schoolhouse Supplies – by giving her permission to collect supplies outside of her local store. Morgen created a system of slips that listed dollar amounts and specific supply items (for example, “$5: five composition books”). People who wanted to support the project would take a slip in with them, purchase the listed supplies alongside their own shopping, and then donate the items as they exited the store.
This ingenious system let Morgen control her inventory and anticipate how many students she could help. Although she had originally planned to provide stocked backpacks for 25 students, her project ended up helping 122 students!
It’s easy to see why Morgen felt that our mission was a good match with her project, but that doesn’t make us any less grateful for her generosity. Thank you, Morgen, and we know you’ll do amazing work as you lead Fill a Backpack, Make a Smile again this summer.