Donated office supplies Credit: Courtesy CCRx

Update and correction: after the initial time of publication, the grand opening event was postponed for a date to be determined in November 2019, however, CCRx is open to visitors; see their website for hours. The monthly swap circles are not active as teachers can now simply volunteer time to CCRx in exchange for free supplies.

Back-to-school time for parents of grade-schoolers means a scramble for supplies at local stores. Endless lists of confusingly specific items can lead to overhearing some complicated moments of exasperation at the office supply: “Why do you need a bottle of white glue and two separate glue sticks? How many collages are you planning to do?!” It may be even harder for teachers, who not only need to design and create curriculum for dozens of students but do so on a limited budget.

Enter the Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange (CCRx), a local nonprofit that seeks to redistribute surplus goods from businesses straight to educators in need of supplies. Founder Barbara Koenen has a background in art making and arts administration, working for more than 20 years with the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. CCRx is fueled by a vast network of businesses and organizations that act as material donors.

CCRx hosts monthly swap circles where teachers can come and take what they need: anything from washi tape to choir gowns has shown up. This month instead of a circle, the organization is preparing for a grand opening event on September 21 at its headquarters in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood (a space provided by fellow Chicago nonprofit Envision Unlimited). While CCRx isn’t technically looking for donations right now, volunteers are needed to help set up the warehouse, especially teachers, who can then take what they need for the school year. And, as the CCRx website points out, anyone who volunteers some sweat equity at the space can bring donations with them and leave them there. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a charter or parochial school, a community college, or something else—teachers at all levels and in all districts do a lot with minuscule help. CCRx is opening a door for anyone who wants to support these educators by closing the reuse loop.   v