There’s a big gap between what students have in the classroom and what they need. In the Pittsburgh and surrounding counties region, 38,000 kids don’t have basic school supplies–and the number is growing. From glue and scissors to markers and yes, even pencils, imagine a classroom without tools for learning, collaboration and creativity.

“It’s a problem we can solve,” says Amanda Chirumbolo, marketing and events associate at The Education Partnership. “Our mission is to bridge the gap between what students have in the classroom and what they need.”

The Education Partnership currently serves 44 area schools and 16,000 kids. Schools apply in the spring, and if they’re eligible, teachers come to The Education Partnership facility and “shop” for supplies. They can pick up everything students need to be productive, engaged and creative in the classroom—at no cost. “We can do this because of our amazing sponsors and our ability to stretch a dollar,” adds Chirumbolo. In fact, 94 cents of every dollar donated to The Education Partnership goes directly to school supplies.

Teachers tell The Education Partnership what a big impact these supplies make in the classroom, not only ensuring kids can do their work, but also helping to minimize behavioral issues. Additionally, The Education Partnership helps remove a heavy burden from teachers, who spend, on average, $400 to $500 dollars per year to make up for what classrooms lack.

At The Education Partnership facility in the West End, volunteers regularly fill the space. They are families, college organizations, school children, and lots of corporate teams. As one of the corporate sponsors, PNC brings regular teams of volunteers to build school supply kits for students. And for every 100 hours of volunteer service, the teams get a grant from PNC Grow Up Great. Recently, PNC employees raised enough grant money to provide school supplies for every student at Pittsburgh Manchester, as part of The Education Partnership’s “Adopt a School” program.

Adopt a School is The Education Partnership’s newest program, enabling corporate sponsors to deliver the supplies that every child in a school needs for the entire year. Volunteers from the sponsoring company put together the school supply kits, including personal notes and creative touches in each bag. Then, they help distribute them at a fun and educational assembly.

At the assemblies, the volunteers’ work translates into what can only be described as pure joy. “The first thing the kids do when they get their kits is open them up and look at the notes that are included,” Chirumbolo says. “They’re getting pencils, markers and scissors, but they also get to feel very special.”

Lots of schools are still available to adopt, but The Education Partnership also offers many other volunteer opportunities for both corporations and individuals. For more information, visit theeducationpartnership.org.