DUBOIS – Teaching kindness is part of the program with the First Class Children’s Foundation “Imagination Station” Book Vending Machines.
Matt Reed of DuBois founded First Class in 2017 to help kids and teachers by providing books and school supplies with his “Imagination Boxes” given to elementary school children.
He has expanded on that by placing “Imagination Station” Book Vending Machines in three DuBois Area School District elementary schools: C. G. Johnson Elementary School in Reynoldsville, Juniata Elementary School in DuBois and most recently, Wasson Elementary School in DuBois.
Students are rewarded for doing random acts of kindness with a gold token they can use in the machines to get a free book of their choice.
“Children are 90 percent more likely to read a book that they pick. So I thought okay, let me try something where they can pick out the book that they want: a vending machine and then let’s tie that in to our overall goal and our overall mission of promoting random acts of kindness. And if you can do a random act of kindness for somebody else, you will be rewarded with a book,” Reed said in an interview on their Youtube page.
During the six years the group has been active, they have given out over 10,000 books.
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 he established the First Class Children’s Foundation.
The “Imagination Boxes” are customized for a specific student with three books, 13 different school supplies, a comic book with their favorite superhero, treats and trading cards.
In 2020 they started providing “Legendary Boxes” with Christmas gifts and supplies for the children of single parents in DuBois. Like the other boxes, these are customized for each individual child.
They have donated 75 “Legendary Boxes” with contents valued at least at $250, according to the Web site.
In the last two years, they have been also giving sneakers to middle school students with their “KICKS” program.
“Unfortunately, far too many kids are walking around in beat up and worn down shoes,” it says on the Web site, explaining this initiative which has given 250 pairs to kids so far with the program.
“At the end of the day, we don’t donate shoes, we donate confidence!”
All of these efforts are possible because of several car shows held throughout the year and individual donations.
Many of the items in the boxes are purchased by people through an online wish list and others come from various supply drives.
“With the support of our community and our generous sponsors First Class has donated over $160,000 worth of items to children in our local community over the last six years,” it says on the Web site.
The next fundraising event is “Cars & Pizza” on Sept. 30 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the E. J. Mansell Stadium in DuBois.
“Bring your kids along for an exciting experience where they can marvel at an impressive array of classic and modern cars.
The event boasts special prizes, ensuring an element of anticipation and excitement throughout the day,” it says on the Facebook event page.
The organization and the car shows would not be possible without family, friends and volunteers, he said.
Matt’s day job is as sales manager for Spitzer Ford Lincoln and his wife, Kimberly, is a registered nurse at Penn Highlands.
“My overall mission from all of this is to be the best person that I can be and to also show other people that you can be the best version of yourself and it can affect the lives of thousands of people in your local area.”
As for the future of the organization, “the possibilities of our foundation are limitless.”
For more information on First Class Children’s Foundation, you can check out their Facebook page or Web site, firstclasschildrensfoundation.com.