Cradles to Crayons

“Cradles to Crayons provides children from birth to age 12, living in low- income and homeless situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play. We supply these items free of charge by engaging and connecting communities that have with communities that need.”

Boston Tutoring Services recently spoke with Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit donation service located in Boston, Philadelphia, and Concord. Megan Collins, Family Philanthropy Coordinator at Cradles to Crayons, opened up about the organization’s inception and the empowerment volunteer work has given children who partner with Cradles to Crayons.

Boston Tutoring Services: How did your organization get started?
Megan Collins: The Cradles to Crayons story began in December 2000, during the Christmas vacation, when Lynn Margherio—a Boston-based business and public-policy consultant who had spent several years in Washington working with the Clinton administration—was visiting the homes of her brother and sister in Michigan.

One morning, she was helping a young niece get dressed. As she dug through a dresser drawer to find just the right outfit, she saw some tops and bottoms with price tags still on them. There was the never-worn green top—destined to remain folded forever in the drawer because it wasn’t pink—and a pair of size 2T pants that reflected her niece’s fashion sense (pink), but already were a size too small.

Later on that same trip, she stopped at her brother’s house, where she got involved with an arts-and-crafts project with another niece and nephew in their play room. But to get to the table with the glitter, stickers and markers, she had to step over piles of toy trucks, puzzles, and games, and navigate around a plastic kitchen set, an air hockey table, and a train table. (“It looks like our own personal Toys R Us,” she said to herself.) She also noted that despite the profusion of stuff, her niece and nephew tended to gravitate toward one or two favorite toys. The rest were more or less ignored. Later, she saw several unopened presents wind up on the top shelf of a closet.

An idea came to her: What if all of these like-new or never-used children’s things could find their way into the homes of other boys and girls—kids who really needed them?

In 2002, Cradles to Crayons officially launched in Boston under Margherio’s leadership and expanded to Philadelphia in 2006 with local support of local Philadelphian, Jennifer Case. With plans to expand from a two-site organization to a five-site organization, by 2018, Cradles to Crayons will be launching its Chicago location in 2016.

BTS: Which towns and communities does your organization reach?
MC: We have over 120 partner organizations throughout the Commonwealth.

BTS: How old should children be in order to be able to participate and get involved?
MC: We welcome volunteers as young as 5 in The Giving Factory in Brighton.

BTS: What is the best thing that children can learn from working with your organization?/What would you like parents to know about the benefits of having their child experience community involvement and volunteering?
MC: Volunteering in The Giving Factory warehouse illustrates, in kid-friendly and relatable terms, the fact that some children do not have the everyday essential items they need. Children leave our Giving Factory empowered to take the lessons learned with them back home and out into their community.

BTS: In establishing your organization, what were the goals/mission statement for giving back to the community?
MC: Cradles to Crayons provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play. We supply these items free of charge by engaging and connecting communities that have with communities that need.

Cradles to Crayons collects new and nearly new children’s items through grassroots community drives and corporate donations. Donations are then processed and packaged by volunteers, and are distributed to disadvantaged children across the state through a collaborative network of social service agencies and school partners.

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