Chance to help with education grows on a tree at Mall at Robinson

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Earlier this month, volunteers and staff members from The Education Partnership distributed 7,774 holiday packages filled with school supplies to needy children in 22 area schools.

The partnership is hoping for a financial boost for that effort from an Education Tree set up at The Mall at Robinson where shoppers can make a $15 donation in return for a handmade ornament. The donation will go to defray the nearly $90,000 cost of the distribution, the third annual by the partnership, a nonprofit located in the West End of Pittsburgh.

Each package given to students contained folders, construction paper, a pencil case, crayons, pencils, watercolor paints, glue and glue sticks, erasers, a ruler, highlighters, a tooth brush and tooth paste. Older students also received a calculator.

“For many children, school supplies may be the only gifts they receive during the holidays,” said Justin Brown, executive director of the partnership.

Mr. Brown said the total cost of each package is about $38, but through donations, bulk purchases and volunteers who assembled the kits manually, the partnership is able to create them for $15 each.

“Everybody likes to find a bargain and this is really a charity bargain. For $15 you can provide a $38 box of supplies to a student,” Mr. Brown said.

Though the distribution to school children is complete, the bills for the project have not been paid.

“There are these things called invoices and they will come next month,” Mr. Brown joked.

The tree is located in the Grand Court of the mall, near Starbucks and J.C. Penney. Those who make a $15 donation can choose either an ornament or a card to send to someone telling them they made the donation in their name.

So far about 150 ornaments have been sold and the tree will be up until Christmas.

The ornaments were assembled by students from Eisenhower Elementary School in Upper St. Clair and help assembling the kits came from students at Fort Couch Middle School in Upper St. Clair.

In the six-county area surrounding Pittsburgh, more than 30,000 students that attend 91 schools are eligible for the partnership’s services. Each year, the partnership allows the schools to apply and chooses a group to service. To apply, 70 percent or more of a school’s student body must qualify for free or reduced-price lunches through that National School Lunch program.

Among the schools that received holiday packages this month were nine from the Pittsburgh Public schools, and schools in the Clairton, Aliquippa, Woodland Hills, Butler Area, Washington and New Kensington-Arnold school districts and some private and charter schools.

Individuals who would like to give a donation, but can’t make it to the mall, may do so at


Mary Niederberger:; 412-263-1590.

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