Aug 5, 201309:32 AMVan Lines
with Joe Vanden Plas
Supply and demand: Vogel supplies, schools demand
(page 1 of 2)
Think of the Dane County School Supplies for Kids program as your way of helping to close the achievement gap in Dane County schools.
The program, now in its 20th year, was founded by David Vogel, 81, chairman of the board of Vogel Bros. Building. Following his tenure as president, he remains active in the company and even more active in this cause.
Each year, the program provides school supplies to needy children, and Vogel is looking forward to support from area businesses and foundations so that Vogel Bros. and other partners can distribute supplies to 142 schools in Dane County.
There are thousands of families in need, and some have acute circumstances and need help getting supplies due to job loss or other family hardships. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Dane County school enrollment has grown nearly 12% in the last five years; in that same period, the number of economically disadvantaged students has grown by more than 32%.
In 2012, supplies were delivered to the schools and made available to an estimated 22,000 needy students. “The stories of some of these kids coming to school are just unbelievable,” Vogel said. “They lack the basic necessities — not being fed, not being clothed. Some of the kids are moving to three different schools in one year. It just goes on and on and breaks your heart.”
Donations received in 2012 totaled $53,270.88; the goal for 2013 is to raise $55,000. The program is looking for straight cash donations — which are used to buy the school supplies — rather than the donation of supplies. “One of issues we’ve had is that when people start donating supplies, they donate at a different level of quality,” Vogel explained. “So you are taking supplies to a school, and some of the notebooks are $5 apiece and some are $1.50. How do you do that kind of sorting in terms of distribution?
“The other experience when we had donations of supplies is people cleaning out their attics. So that is why we went to this format, staying strictly with cash donations and buying a type of notebook, a type of paper, a type of pencil. We buy the supplies and distribute them, but they are all the same for all the schools.”
The cash donations are used to purchase the basics — spiral notebooks, loose-leaf notebooks, loose-leaf filler, pencils, glue sticks, scissors, rulers, red and blue pens, colored pencils, and protractors.
Vogel’s involvement in school supplies actually began in another life, when he “unfortunately” owned a hotel. Each year, the hotel threw a Christmas party for disadvantaged kids. Twenty years ago, after one of the parties, management did some unscientific post-event surveying, asking whether the party was okay. The feedback was instructive, for even though the kids enjoyed the parties, everyone was throwing them and there were other, year-round needs. When Vogel asked for some examples, he was told the cost of school supplies, combined with various school activity fees, was tough on single mothers, especially if they had two or three kids.
Vogel began to discuss the need with business associates, coaxed a few dollars out of them, and eventually commissioned a pickup truck to deliver supplies to an economically disadvantaged Madison neighborhood. The next year, two more neighborhoods asked for help, and eventually the situation reached the point where everything had to be coordinated through the schools.