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Charlotte nonprofit dedicating millions of dollars for free school supplies

Classroom Central is like any other store, except for one caveat.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Classroom Central, a Charlotte-based nonprofit, is pouring millions of dollars into providing school supplies to students in need.

Last year alone, Classroom Central distributed around 1.3 million school supplies, which equated to a market value of $6.8 million. 

These supplies all go to around 197 schools in six districts in the Charlotte area. This year, Classroom Central has expanded the number of schools they serve.

"We added 34 schools to our mix, 27 of which were right here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg," Karen Calder, Classroom Central's executive director said. "It's the single largest increase that we have had in 20 years."

Classroom Central is like any other store, except for one caveat. 

"We don't have any cash registers, everything is 100%, free of charge," Calder said. 

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The nonprofit allows teachers to grab a cart and pick up any classroom supplies they need. It’s a lifeline for teachers and their students. 

"Our teachers who may earn less than other folks in our community are then left to spend their money to make sure that students have what they need," Calder said. 

She estimates teachers can spend anywhere between $500 to $1,000 each school year on supplies. 

Their focus is on schools with low-income students.

"I mean, eggs are at an all-time high, gas is expensive," Calder said. "So you can start to see where things would add up for a family that may have more than one child or even one child." 

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In addition to its free store located in Charlotte, there are mobile stores that go to schools. 

"They're filled with school supplies that you can pick up," Calder said. "Our mobile free store does make outings every week to all of the school districts that we serve. In addition, we have online ordering with curbside pickup." 

Ingrid Corpuz, a program coordinator for multilingual learners in Lancaster County, came to fill up her cart for teachers in her area. 

"It really makes it very special not necessarily to see them struggling with certain things," Corpuz said. "That's not one of the things that we want to see in our students."

The saying goes 'never ask a student why they didn’t bring a pencil because you never know the answer'.

"Parents may not be able to provide them with," Corpuz said. 

But with Classroom Central, pencils are always in stock.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.

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