N.Y.C. Internet Site Links City Schools' Wish Lists With Benefactors' Gifts
When one New York City couple wanted to ensure that the computer they were replacing didn't wind up collecting dust, they turned to a local nonprofit organization that uses the Internet to help link the city's needy schools with prospective donors.
A simple search on the group's World Wide Web site turned up P.S. 306--a school in the Bronx that needed computers--and a match was made.
"We didn't want to sell it," Nancy Novack said of her 5-year-old Macintosh computer. "And I really wanted to make sure it went to a school that really could use it."
Last spring, the New York City-based Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning--known by its catchy acronym, PENCIL--teamed up with the New York Daily News to launch a resource bank on the newspaper's Web site.
The service lets New York public school principals post wish lists for their schools.
The Web site organizes the schools by location and grade level, and principals make requests ranging from scissors to air conditioners.
Since its inception, the site has linked donors large and small with schools most in need of specific donations.
It represents an innovative way that the Internet can be used to help schools, said Lisa Belzberg, PENCIL's president and founder.
"We've gotten calls from everyone from individual companies with extra supplies, to people saying, 'Hey, I've got a sofa downstairs and I need to do something with it,'" Ms. Belzberg said.
"It's not huge yet, but I think it will be because it's a no-brainer."
In 1995, Ms. Belzberg founded PENCIL, which uses corporate and foundation funding to run various programs designed to bring private sector involvement to the New York City public school system.
Recently, Veba AG, a large German conglomerate that opened on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month, gave PENCIL a $50,000 grant to help various area schools acquire new art materials.
PENCIL will use the money to buy art supplies for all the schools on the Web site that requested them.
At Robert F. Kennedy Community Middle/High School in Queens, the grant money will pay for chicken wire and other materials so that the students can build three-dimensional art projects, said art teacher Susan Phillips.
Because she typically receives only $200 to $300 a year to spend on supplies for about 300 students, Ms. Phillips said she is thrilled to have the chance to work with new, high-quality materials.
"It shows there is a tooth fairy," she said. "We're always working with recycled materials, so I ordered something that will be very exciting."
As this is the first school year that donors and principals can access the Web site, Ms. Belzberg said that PENCIL's four paid employees and 4 volunteers are still working to "spread the word" about the Internet resource.
"It's reliable as hell, and easy as hell to do," she said. "The more that people find out about it, the more it will make a huge difference."