Just to make it cooler, if you donate enough, the teacher and children send you hand-written thank you notes. I really like knowing what I'm paying for - not to mention seeing the results. I can search for schools in poorer areas of Detroit, which is satisfying knowing I'm helping local educators make a difference.
Late last year I contributed to help buy an internet-compatible computer for an inner-city junior high school classroom. They sent me a thank-you package awhile ago, which I set aside and forgot to open! I found it yesterday, and flipped through it. There were a couple photos, and an envelope filled with handwritten letters on notebook paper. Each is addressed to me personally, written and signed by a kid -- you can tell it was a class project, and they had been given some prompting as to what to say. Still.... how cool!
"This was at the best time since half the computers around where I live don't have working internet. This was also good because now I don't have to dicect a real animal, since I'm an animal lover. I also want to learn about the earth without damaging it. I love to do research as well, But I'm running out of time since I'm a buser, I'd love to say more but, bye. Sincerely, Tyron"
"You realy made me and my class feel very happy to know there is steel good people in the world. We are using the computer to research biology, and earth science. Sincerely Sarah, Thank you."
"We have used the computer to see a model of how gas particles move. Thank you so much. The computer works very good. I used it to look at air, gases, and more. I really appreciated you did something good. Thanks Chelsea"
(Lots of nice letters, but these were some of my favorites. Spelling and punctuation left intact. The last one used little circles on top of her i's, instead of dots! Cute.)
Yesterday I donated to a local elementary school, for some math tools. I'm looking forward to the next thank you package! (Obviously it won't come for awhile since it's summer, but I'll try to be patient.)
I also donated some math stuff to a kindergarten near where my grandmother lives, in honor of her birthday. They'll be sending her the thank you package directly. That seems like a pretty cool gift! If this goes well, I'll probably give my whole family virtual school supplies for Christmas....
The only hard part is how addictive it is. Once I start reading the entries, I want to buy everything! Like I read about this one classroom, and all the teacher was asking for was a case of tennis balls to use as "sleeves" for the bottom of all the chairs and desks to minimize noise when kids move around, because her classroom is in a trailer. Or the teacher who wanted electric pencil sharpeners and pencils. Some requests are bigger, but some requests are so trivial. It's amazing to think about, that something so small can make a difference. Also that something so small could go unfulfilled... but there are lots of needs out there. Each one that makes so much sense, and seems so reasonable, I just want to run over there and give them all shiny new pencils and tennis balls. If only it were that easy!
I can't buy everything, although I'm going to keep contributing. But I can post a link, share my excitement, in case it inspires anybody else.