Local Schools

With no budget for new chairs, schools welcome donation from Lenexa company

Eric White, principal of Most Pure Heart of Mary School in Topeka, loads chairs by the Scott Rice Office Works warehouse in Lenexa into his pickup truck bed. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If Goldilocks had gone to Xavier School in Leavenworth instead of the three bears’ cottage, she would have tried out three chairs instead of three beds.

She’d try out the school secretary’s chair: “This one is broken!”

And then the school nurse’s chair: “This one is broken, too!”

And finally, the principal’s chair: “Oh dear, this one is also broken!”

Poor Goldilocks would have to limp home with a backache, vulnerable to a bear attack on the way.

“The chair backs no longer stay in position, so they are constantly reclining further and further back all day long,” said Janelle Hartegan, Xavier principal. “They are very uncomfortable, but there isn’t money in the budget [for new chairs], so we just figure out how to make it work.”

By no means is this situation unusual at some archdiocesan schools. They don’t have near the financial resources of public schools, so they have to do more with less, and follow the old U.S. Marine Corps slogan to “improvise, adapt and overcome.”

This applies especially to furniture for staff and teachers.

Thankfully, seven Catholic schools with Catholic Education Foundation students will soon receive some much-needed and appreciated chairs thanks to a donation from Scott Rice Office Works in Lenexa.

Eric White, principal of Most Pure Heart of Mary School in Topeka, starts the first of his many trips from his truck to the school, as he unloads chairs donated with the help of CEF Futures board member Rachel Hewitt. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The chairs were made available to the schools thanks to Rachel Hewitt, a member of St. Elizabeth Parish in Kansas City, Missouri. She’s a workplace consultant with Scott Rice Office Works and a board member with Catholic Education Foundation Futures.

CEF Futures is a group of young professionals who are active in their parishes and have a passion to help children get a Catholic education.

“[Scott Rice] is a commercial furniture provider with a large focus on education in Kansas City,” said Hewitt. “We happened to have a lot of chairs that needed new homes, and we wanted them to go to local schools and nonprofits.”

Staci Chivetta, a project manager in the education division of Scott Rice, examined the firm’s inventory to determine what new and used chairs were overstocked and needed to be cleared to make way for new inventory. She asked employees if they knew of any churches or schools that could use the excess chairs.

“We didn’t want these to end up in a landfill because they are very high-    quality chairs,” said Hewitt. “They’re mostly task seating — desk chairs, office chairs — that are ergonomically supportive for people who are sitting for long periods of time sitting and standing. They can make all the difference, especially for teachers who endure long hours of virtual and in-person teaching.”

The firm wound up donating 111 chairs to archdiocesan schools on a first-come, first-served basis.

Most Pure Heart of Mary Principal Eric White hauls in unassembled chairs while sixth-grader Seth Rueschhoff (left) and White’s son, Evan, a seventh-grader, help unload chairs. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

One of the schools that received chairs was Christ the King in Kansas City, Kansas.

“Any time there is an area in which we can save money — whether it’s a donation of furniture, equipment or school supplies — that’s one less expense. And it frees principals up to allocate our money to other needed areas,” said Cathy Fithian, principal.

“The opportunity of these new chairs is a blessing for our teachers,” she added.

Donated chairs also went to Most Pure Heart of Mary School in Topeka — some to furnish the teacher staff room.

“We take gifts [of chairs] as hand-me-downs from businesses,” said Eric White, principal. “We have several chairs that when you sit in them, [they] gradually sink down. Eventually you have to raise them back up to sit at table height.

But they weren’t scheduled for replacement.

“We just don’t buy those kinds of things with our resources,” said White. “Typically, we spend our funds on things that will directly help the students. It’s infrequent we’d use school resources [otherwise].

“[The donations will make] life a little better for the adults in the building, and that’s important, especially in this time of COVID. Everybody’s giving a little more, and job responsibilities have changed. To have something more for the adults is a good thing.”

Her school is not only grateful for the new chairs, said Hartegan, but for the good community relations it represents.

“If there is a generous community partner willing to make a donation,” she said, “and there is a need in a Catholic school, I think it’s good to work in partnership.”

“We don’t budget for new furniture for the staff,” she continued. “We get new furniture for students, but we don’t always have the money to prioritize staff desks and chairs.

“So, when we had a community partner, we were grateful that they were willing to invest in Catholic education. We are grateful for their generosity.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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