It all started with one lonely pallet

As we start 2015 with high hopes and enthusiasm, we reflect on the generosity of our donors who graciously gave in 2014 to make our School Supply Container Project such a success.

We began this project last July with a goal to fill an entire 20-foot container with supplies, an opportunity that was made possible thanks in part to our friends at Hope Haven International, who generously offered to fully coordinate the shipment of the container to Guatemala.

With a shipping date set for early October, the pressure was on. We had less than 3 full months to collect enough supplies. On September 11, we only had one lonely pallet in our warehouse out of the 10 we needed to fill the container. Slowly but surely, the donations started to roll in. Each day was like Christmas in the U.S. office when the UPS, FedEx, and USPS deliveries would arrive. There were days when the front office was piled high with boxes from donors located all over the U.S. Through August and September, people really began to come together to help; we had our long-time volunteers Bob Karlstrand and Jerry Wisdorf in the warehouse packing pallets; we had Rotary clubs and individuals counting pencils, pens, and scissors; we had Executive and Honorary Board members weighing boxes; and we had many, many supporters near and far collecting supplies on our behalf.

Bob and Jerry, who have helped us pack and ship many containers over the years.

Eventually, that one lonely pallet turned into 3 pallets, and then 6 pallets, and before we knew it, we had 10 pallets worth of supplies staged and ready to go. On October 14, we loaded all 10 pallets into the container, and after everything was said and done, the total weight of the supplies was 13,761 pounds! It’s next destination – Antigua, Guatemala.

Approximately two months later on December 4, the container arrived in Antigua. The Network Access Products Vision Team worked alongside Common Hope staff to unload the container and unpack the pallets. Over the next month, staff and volunteers worked day-after-day to put together the 3,300 school bags that would be handed out to the students in January.

From start to finish, the project lasted 6 months and there were many challenges along the way, but it was a resounding success thanks to the support and generosity of so many. We’d like to take this opportunity to send a heart-felt thank you the following supporters:

District 5950 Rotary members and Rotary exchange students

To the Rotary Clubs that participated in the District 5950 grant to purchase school supplies:

Crystal-New Hope-Robbinsdale
Minneapolis City of Lakes
Minneapolis South
Minneapolis Uptown
St. Louis Park Sunrise
Edina Noon

To the 5960 Rotary Clubs who helped fund the container shipment:

Coon Rapids
Blaine-Ham Lake

To Club Rotario Guatemala del Este for partnering on the District 5950 grant and for helping in our Antigua warehouse.

To all of the individuals who made in-kind and/or cash donations, your contributions made this project a success! We also received a lot of anonymous donations and many packages were shipped to our office without the purchasers name. Please know that we truly appreciate your generosity even though we are unable to thank you personally. 

We’d also like to thank all of the churches, businesses, foundations, and organizations who hosted supply drives on our behalf or made in-kind and/or cash donations. It was heartwarming to know so many people were coming together to support this project!

To all of the volunteers in the U.S. and Guatemala who helped us sort, count, pack, unload, and hand out supplies – we can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedules to help. We know that some projects (like individually counting every single pencil) were tedious, but please know that all of your contributions made a difference!

View the gallery below to see photos from the entire 2014 School Supply Container Project!