VOICES: Making sure children have what they need to learn

Every child should have access to the tools they need to engage, learn, grow, and experience the transformative power of education. This includes school supplies. It is likely an unknown fact that tens of thousands of Miami Valley students don’t have access to these resources. The financial burden then falls on the teachers to reach into their own pockets and purchase necessary school supplies for their students.

That’s where Crayons to Classrooms comes into play to bridge that gap for children and teachers in our local community.

Since 2009, Crayons to Classrooms has been distributing core school supplies, classroom decorations, office products, books, and more to local teachers through our Teacher Resource Center. Today, we’ve distributed over $34 million in classroom materials, and hosted over 33,000 teacher shopping visits that average $676 per visit worth of free supplies. While this is a great success that we are incredibly proud of, we are always looking for more ways to increase the impact we can make in local classrooms.

After the pandemic, there was an increased need for fidget toys and social-emotional tools in the classroom. In 2021, our staff added Pocket Hugs to our off-site volunteer project list. Pocket Hugs are small, stuffed shapes that students can squeeze to self-soothe and keep busy so their minds can concentrate on learning. We know that fidgets can increase a student’s focus and attention during class. Many fidgets out there make some sort of noise, clicking or tapping, but we wanted a fidget that was quiet so it wouldn’t disturb other students. Pocket Hugs can also act like a little “hug” to a student who may need one throughout the day.

During the month of February, we host a Pocket Hugs Campaign, which is largely promoted on our Facebook and Instagram pages through static posts and reels. This campaign is an ask for volunteers to sew pocket hugs and spread love to Miami Valley students around Valentine’s Day and every day. By leveraging the power of social media, we’ve been able to reach people across the country, as far as California and Washington State, gaining nearly one hundred new volunteers. Since we started distributing Pocket Hugs in 2021, we have donated close to 7,500 pocket hugs to Dayton-area schools.

Our footprint is large – since our grand opening in 2009, we’ve served 129 schools in seven counties, including Clark, Miami, Greene, Montgomery, Preble, Darke, and north Warren. We are committed to securing and distributing school supplies at no cost to teachers of students in need. This mission constantly inspires us to come up with creative ways to get our community and beyond involved, and Pocket Hugs accomplishes just that.

It’s incredible to see the committed collaboration between our donors, volunteers, and supporters. They know that it is all too common for teachers to spend their own money to provide supplies for their students, which is a huge financial burden on them. Our community’s unwavering dedication to the students in the Greater Dayton area is the reason why our reach has expanded dramatically since 2009. Thank you to our community who believe in the power of education. We will continue to commit to ensure every student has the school supplies they need to succeed.

Debbie Hanna is the Classroom Solutions Program Coordinator at Crayons to Classrooms located in Dayton.

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