PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to change how they operate, and that includes non-profit organizations that support local schools.
The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County partners with the business community to raise money and donations for district schools, and their "pandemic pivot" is proving to be beneficial in the long run.
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Packing up and moving out, Santa and his elves, also known as the staff at the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County, can now ride around town in their own sled, or a 14-foot box truck.
"What you have to have in a process like ours is you have to be able to accept the product, store the product, but then you’ve gotta move the product. Without the truck we couldn’t do it," said James Gavrilos, the president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County.
The Education Foundation operates the Red Apple Supplies Program to get school supplies in teachers' hands at more than 60 schools across the School District of Palm Beach County.
"No teacher should ever have to dip into their own pocket to buy school supplies for their students," Gavrilos said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers would come to the Red Apple Supplies warehouse to get things like tape, pencils, Post-its, whatever they needed for their classrooms. But when the coronavirus hit, the team at the Education Foundation knew they needed to make a change.
"We shifted from using an Office Depot model to an Amazon model," Gavrilos said.
In the past, teachers would place an order, come to the Red Apple Supplies warehouse, and pick up the supplies already boxed up. But now, thanks to donations, the Education Foundation has a $60,000 truck to take the supplies directly to educators.
"We can more efficiently and increase the number of supplies to our teachers," Gavrilos said.
The truck's first trip on April 14 was out to the Glades, where Belle Glade Elementary School Principal Robera Walker was thrilled to see the boxes filled with books.
"This year with COVID and all the different protocols, they haven’t been able to have access to books as much. So it couldn’t have come at a better time," Walker said.
Then it was off to Gove Elementary School.
"One of the things for us being in Belle Glade is the distance," said Principal Kim Thomasson. "So our teachers have to leave early from school to get [to the Red Apple Supplies warehouse]. But now that they are delivering the materials to us, it is such a blessing because we have it right here."
Kindergarten teacher Candice Stockwell was thankful for the delivery.
"It allows more supplies to come in to the teachers," Stockwell said. "It's an awesome opportunity. We’re so grateful they are doing it this year."
So Gavrilos said that while they've found a new way to be successful, the old way will still make a comeback.
"I think as we come out of the pandemic fully, we’re gonna have that hybrid model," Gavrilos said.
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Donations from The Honda Classic, Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation, and the Batchelor Foundation contributed to the box truck.
You can learn more about the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and how to help by clicking here.