Dave Cornelius, PMP, PMI-ACP
Recently, I met with Justin Fox, Rock Harbor Costa Mesa City Pastor, to gather insights into the church’s “Back-to-School Drive” project. The economic downturn has impacted schools everywhere. Teachers are purchasing classroom supplies and students are returning to class without the necessary tools to succeed. Rock Harbor partnered with schools in Costa Mesa, Calif., to make a difference by reducing the financial burden on teachers and equipping students with basic school supplies to support learning.
What was your role in this project?
I played a leadership role from concept creation to delivering backpacks and boxes, as well as building relationships with schools and teachers.
How was this vision created?
We have a tradition of implementing community-focused projects year round. We provide care packages at Christmas and meals at Thanksgiving. We considered donating money but decided to ask schools what they needed and invited our church community to purchase supplies—a tangible blessing for students and teachers.
What issues were indentified?
Many students return to school without supplies or backpacks needed to succeed. We felt that providing supplies to students would encourage them academically. We also wanted to support teachers and reduce their financial burden.
Who defined the project requirements?
Our local reach Director Kelly Casiocatta decided we should purchase backpacks for students and prepare appreciation boxes for teachers. We worked with school principals and other churches to determine quantities and created an inventory list that could be used when shopping for supplies. The goal was to fill 1,000 backpacks and 200 teacher boxes.
How was this planned and organized?
We designated a patio area for pick up and drop off. This included collection bins and tables staffed by volunteers. We also created awareness through print materials, our Website, social media, and e-bulletins.
To manage the process, each backpack and box had a supply list, tracking number, and code for teacher/student and school level. People provided contact information when they picked up a backpack or box, which was associated with a tracking number and enabled us to monitor fulfillment.
We focused on the start of school. Between August 5–25, 2012, we dispersed empty backpacks and boxes, collected supplies, and delivered them to schools. Teachers received boxes before school and students received backpacks on the first day of class.
What is the estimated value of this project?
Priceless! The value was estimated at $18,000 for backpacks and $5,300 for teacher boxes.
What lessons did you learn?
We motivated many people to work on small things versus a small group to work on a larger initiative. The interface with the backpack, supply list, tracking number, and volunteer team was effective, as well as the patio design, which engaged people.
What was the goal for this project?
We wanted to build lasting relationships with administrators, teachers, and students in our community. We also wanted our service to be an example of the Gospel at work in a tangible way.