Catholic school students and children in need throughout Arkansas will soon be adding creativity to all their artwork and worksheets thanks to a new batch of colored pencils — a million, to be exact.
A central Arkansas company that was ending a promotion or product line no longer needed roughly one million colored pencils. Rather than throw them away, they were sent in mid-February to Natural State Recycling, co-owned by Christ the King Little Rock parishioner Randy Pierce.
“They just came to us unannounced. I didn’t want to have them just be ground up to sawdust,” he said.
After getting permission from the company to donate them, Pierce, a parish council member, reached out to the Honduras Mission at Christ the King. One pallet, with an array of purple, turquoise, green and red pencils, will go to Honduras. But that left nine other pallets. A call to the Diocese of Little Rock led to the Catholic Schools Office, which suggested the principals could take them back for their students at their Feb. 21 meeting at St. John Center.
“The next thing I knew somebody from the Mount said, ‘OK, bring them up and we’ll package them,’” Pierce said. “… I think it’s great. The first tenet in recycling is reuse and in that situation with the colored pencils, they’re all brand new. If we can get them to schools, charities or whatever, to us is great; it’s going to help somebody.”
While the assumption was Mount St. Mary Academy would take a pallet, its ever ambitious principal Angie Collins had another plan.
“Of course that excited me; we’ll take all 10 … Yeah it’s a million pencils, I’m good with that,” she said.
The school wound up with eight pallets, about four by four feet, stored in their maintenance shop.
In just two days, students spent about four and half hours total sorting through about a pallet and a half, separating the six colors into gallon bags, one of each color given to the principals.
“They were overjoyed, really excited,” Collins said about her fellow principals.
And while the idea of sitting for hours sorting pencils might seem like a boring activity for teenagers, Collins admits it will sound “silly,” but the students have found it “relaxing.”
“It feels like even though what I’m doing is small, it will have a big impact on those who receive it,” said junior Ashley Klinck, 17, who sat on the floor of her classroom March 2, sorting along with junior Emily Hester, who said, “It makes me happy to know other kids in school will get privileges we take for granted.”
Collins hopes the other six and a half pallets will go to students in need in the community.
“It’s just a tangible way to package something knowing they’re doing good for the community,” Collins said. “We’ll be reaching out this spring to some community organizations to see if they have a need and see if they want to partner with us.”
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