A Month of A Million Story Times

If we needed a reminder on the importance of community partnership, it came earlier this month. More than 26 bins stocked with books were delivered to Levé nonprofit partner Schoolhouse Supplies, the end result of one brainstorming session in late February, and proof that uniting community businesses and nonprofit organizations is better than standing alone.

“I think the three of us were kind of this perfect combination of resources coming together,” says Stefani Jenness, an account executive at Alpha Broadcasting, of her company’s partnership with Schoolhouse Supplies and Knowledge Universe. The trio recently completed A Month of a Million Story Times campaign, which promoted early literacy and summer reading by collecting books at various locations during June. The books will fill the shelves at Schoolhouse Supplies’ Free Store for Teachers in the fall before finding their way into local classrooms.

book drivebook bins

Thrilled by the success of the campaign, the partners believe it is an accomplishment that couldn’t have been done alone.

“I think community partnerships are the key to long-lasting and sustainable efforts to help anybody who is having a challenging life scenario,” says Rachel Sample, community manager at Knowledge Universe, which is the presenting sponsor of Levé’s 10th annual Charity Ball. “[Knowledge Universe] tends to focus our efforts around children and particularly literacy because that is our focus in the community, but in all reality, any efforts to reach out in the community and help another community member is better done together because you can leverage exponential resources, you can leverage a bigger network of community members, and you can spread awareness in a much bigger way when you work together.”

Jenness sat down in February with Sample. They initially focused on how a partnership between Schoolhouse Supplies and Alpha Broadcasting — parent company of Live 95.5 and 98.7 The Bull, among other radio stations, and media sponsor for Charity Ball — could benefit the Tools for Schools program.

They left the room with a much bigger idea.

“We sat down and brainstormed a way to get involved in the backpack program, and then realized Schoolhouse Supplies has a book section that a lot of people don’t know about,” Jenness says. “Teachers are always asking for more books. That’s where they really had a need, to grow their book section and get donations for that.”

Born was A Month of a Million Story Times. Knowledge Universe, the country’s largest private early childhood education provider, was a natural fit for the partnership.

“We see everyday in our centers the importance of books in the lives of children. The difference you can make with one book can change a child’s life and build a life long love and enchantment with reading,” Sample says. “We were really excited to jump on board.”

Stacey Lynn Children's M.

Most excited was Jen Barth, executive director of Schoolhouse Supplies. Barth says Knowledge Universe has been a longtime partner and champion for her organization, and the focus on literacy and addition of Alpha Broadcasting as a supporter fills a critical — and growing — need.

“When a partner steps up in a new way and also introduces so many new champions to us — the incredible Alpha team, other partners they helped connect us to, and obviously the response of the broader community — it all has an incredible impact on our ability to deliver on our mission,” Barth says. “There’s a ripple effect that these connections have on the teachers, students, and families we serve as we prepare for the back-to-school season.”

The ripple is beginning.

Barth and her Schoolhouse Supplies staff were excited to begin unloading the bins of books gathered, and volunteers are sorting and organizing them by age and grade level this month. So far, over 1,500 books have been counted, representing an estimated value of more than $6,000. These books will help stock the shelves of its Free Store for Teachers, which currently has books for kindergartners through high school, as well as reference books.

“Most people know us for our basics — crayons, calculators, pencils, glue sticks and art supplies, and teacher resources. Those are critical parts of the tools we provide to teachers, but the book section is certainly one of the favorites and often the best surprise when teachers do come see us,” Barth says. “People get so excited when they see books for students of all ages as they shop the aisles of our Free Store.”

Thanks to the partnership with Alpha Broadcasting and Knowledge Universe, the shelves of Schoolhouse Supplies will have more to offer local teachers this fall.

Find out more about Schoolhouse Supplies and its partnership with Levé.