DUBOIS – While non-profit groups have been struggling to find ways to raise money, the First Class Children’s Foundation found a genius way to complete its mission to provide school supplies to students.
Matt Reed, founder, said in an interview that when he started planning for 2020, he was going to have several car shows, but the COVID-19 pandemic quickly put a stop to those plans.
In the spring, they were able to have a school supply drive where they encouraged people to drop off supplies to fill up a truck.
“We found a niche on how to drive fundraisers without having a huge amount of people.”
In June they were able to schedule a car show and a few others followed until Labor Day. They were able to raise $20,000.
“Once we had it figured out, it was easy.”
With other groups cancelling their events, they found a market of people looking for something to do.
But his best idea, came when he started a wish list on Amazon.com, specifying what items he needed to put the boxes together.
“We got packages all summer.”
Cases of items arrived as people shopped and ordered the supplies while “just sitting on their couch.” The products were then shipped directly to Reed.
“We did box openings on social media, which inspired more people to give,” he explained.
So many people donated in this way that they only needed to use between $5,000 and $6,000 of their raised money to complete 325 “Imagination Boxes” for students of the C.G. Johnson School in Reynoldsville.
Reed’s organization has been giving the boxes, which are customized for each student with three books, 13 different school supplies, a comic book with their favorite superhero, treats and Pokémon cards, for about three years.
His charitable efforts began while he was still in high school when he worked to raise funds for the Make a Wish group and continued in college when he arranged charity car shows for another non-profit.
He then began to use the car shows to collect funds for organizations such as Toys for Tots, and the Free Clinic in DuBois.
In 2016 after he learned books at the Oklahoma Elementary School were falling apart, he raised money to replace them.
This is when he realized he had found a specific area where he could help and in 2017, he established First Class Children’s Foundation.
His main fundraisers have been the car shows, although they have arranged chicken dinners and craft shows.
Last year they were able to provide Imagination Boxes to 150 students when they had a special ceremony at the school to distribute them. The children were called up, one by one, to the stage to get their box.
The children then all opened the boxes together. The videos on their Facebook page show how ecstatic the kids were with their gifts.
Of course, things are different in 2020.
“With other schools shutting down, we were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to deliver the boxes.”
Luckily, they were able to make arrangements to drop them all off at the school before Thanksgiving where the teachers distributed them in their class rooms and passed them on to those doing remote learning.
Although they weren’t able to see all the kids’ faces, the school supplied some photos and parents have been posting photos of their happy children.
“You know these boxes are well loved when the kiddos take them to bed with them,” one parent posted along with a photo of her child sleeping. “Thank you for doing this. My two kids love the boxes so much,”
This holiday season the group has started a new program, “Legendary Boxes” with Christmas gifts and supplies for the children of single parents living in the Greater DuBois area.
The Amazon idea has helped with this endeavor as well.
“When I posted a list (of what the child wanted), it was filled within a few days,” he said.
They have 31 of these boxes to deliver prior to Christmas.
By the end of the year, they will have donated $27,000 worth of products.
Although they achieved a lot in 2020, they have a small group.
“With us it’s just me and my wife (Kimberly),” he explained although family members help with the car shows.
“We just roll with it, and it works out.”
His day job is as sales manager for Murray Ford Lincoln and his wife is a registered nurse at Penn Highlands.
Next month he will start planning for 2021 with the Amazon lists again being a big part of his fundraising.
For more information on First Class Children’s Foundation, you can check out its Facebook page or Web site, firstclasschildrensfoundation.com.