Ryan Gulash remembers as a student at the now-closed West Vernon Elementary School feeling embarrassed by having to use recycled paper from his classroom’s collection box to write down homework assignments.
That personal connection is why now, as a Staples employee, Gulash is more than happy to give to the Back To School Project, an effort organized by North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society, White Valley Community Centre, Family Resource Centre and Okanagan Boys and Girls Club Armstrong to help families who can’t afford it buy school supplies for their children.
Staples is a major sponsor and fundraiser for the project.
“Ryan’s story is 100 per cent why we do this,” said Jan Shumay, director of operations and services with NOYFSS.
“This year, thanks to the generosity of Staples, 540 students received supplies.”
The office equipment giant, between July 1 and Sept. 10, raised $15,090 for the project, up considerably from the $11,700 raised in 2010.
The money was raised through a combination of employee bake sales, barbecues, and raffles for a laptop computer and a Kindle electronic reader.
Every customer that came through the store during that time frame was also asked if they wanted to donate to the project.
“We had support from in town customers and those from out of town as well,” said Jamie Wattie with Staples. “We had overwhelming support from everybody, including our employees and our company.”
Wattie and the Staples’ crew are thinking big for 2012, trying to find a way to beat the $15,000 they raised this year.
“We are planning to register for the Canada Sings competition,” smiled Wattie, talking about the Global TV show where “ordinary Canadians to form extraordinary glee clubs with their co-workers and compete against another workplace team for a $10,000 donation to their charity of choice.”
All of the partners in the Back To School Project are grateful for Staples’ participation.
“It’s really a lot of effort they put in,” said Jan Schulz, executive director of the Family Resource Centre, who, along with NOYFSS representatives Shumay and Lorel Brown, presented Wattie and Gulash and fellow Staples employees Gary Ouellette and Cindy DeGagne with a custom-made thank-you card, created by the students who received the supplies.