When our home was destroyed last winter by a burst pipe, we were left with next to nothing. When it came time to go back to school, we had no computers, no books, no paper or even a pencil. It made an impression on all three kids to say the least. Taking a page from the world according to Oprah, I knew we all would feel better about our situation if we somehow tried to help others. And that is the short story of how the living room in our temporary housing came to look like a Staples store had exploded.


The idea actually started with my son J.’s teacher. She mentioned that almost new school supplies go into the trash at the end of every year. In June, we set up boxes to collect gently used school supplies, and we got more than we bargained for. We lugged all the stuff home and started the triage. We divided our haul into three piles: trash, good as new, and hospital. The hospital pile required tender love and care. We got a God wink when we realized we were in dire need of a good eraser, and two suddenly appeared in the next box. Rubbing alcohol, hair spray and nail polisher remover helped us remove names, subjects, and occasionally, who was in love with who.


In the end, we collected an enormous amount of binders (who knew drab green was so popular!), marble notebooks, spiral notebooks, pencil cases, paper, and even a few calculators. Our first thought was that we could ship them to a school overseas, but the freight was prohibitive. We ended up donating them to a soup kitchen, whose patrons were in dire need. It made us feel like we had A LOT. And we do.