Courtesy Tari Marshall
At the end of every school year, Dr. Carla Minutti was surprised by the amount of school supplies her two children brought home, and hatched an idea that connected families at Lincoln Elementary School in River Forest with nearby Loyola Medical Center doctors and students to provide unused or gently-used supplies to children
around the world.
"I travel to Mexico frequently," said the pediatric endocrinologist, a Mexico native. "Many Loyola medical students and pediatric residents who work with me also participate in Loyola Medical School Ministry trips around the U.S. and the world. I thought we could collect the unused supplies for children in need, and contacted the school to see if other parents would be interested," Dr. Minutti explained.
Her phone call to Lincoln Principal Pam Hyde in 2009 has grown into an ongoing parent-led effort by the school's Green4Good Committee, which fosters environmental responsibility in the school community. "It was so simple, and a perfect way to get the supplies into the hands of children who need them while also cutting down on the amount being thrown away," noted Green4Good's Renee Sichlau, who has spearheaded the annual effort with fellow parent volunteer Laura Maychruk.
The school's PTO sells pre-packaged supplies at the beginning of each school year as a fundraiser and convenience for parents. While some items are saved and re-used by students, parents found that they had stockpiles of extra items that either cluttered closets and drawers or were thrown away.
"We send home a flyer that gives families the option to have their children bring their supplies home or leave them at school to be donated," Sichlau said, adding that they collect approximately 20 large boxes of crayons, scissors, pencils and other supplies each year. Even broken crayons and near-empty glue sticks can be recycled, she explained.
"Crayons can be melted down and reshaped for children with disabilities, and we send Elmer's glue stick containers back to the company for recycling."
Once the supplies are collected, Dr. Minutti, along with her children, friends and some of her Loyola colleagues, pick up the boxes for storage in her garage until the Ministry team makes its next delivery. Team members fill their suitcases and backpacks with as much as they can carry, and have delivered the supplies as near as the south side of Chicago to as far as Haiti, Peru and a nomadic community in the mountains of Morocco. "While growing up in Mexico, I had the opportunity of realizing how privileged I was, and how many children lived in dramatically different conditions than I did," Dr. Minutti recalled.
"We hope to continue being able to do this for many years to come."