CORDOVA, Ill. — 3M Engineer Susan Wheeler was thrilled when plant manager Dave Andrews approved the company’s school supply donation for 2020.
Coronavirus restrictions threatened to derail an event 3M has hosted annually since 2015, Wheeler said Wednesday morning as cars and sport utility vehicles left 3M with large bags of school supplies.
Of 101 schools registered for free supplies from 3M, 81 responded that they’d pick up the donated items Wednesday morning, Wheeler said. 3M prepared enough bags for all of the schools, so if the remainder showed up, they’d be taken care of, she said.
Schools are nominated for the giveaway by 3M employees and retirees, said Wheeler. In 2015, the year she and retired 3M employee Deanna Shadrick started the program, 50 schools accepted the supplies.
Wheeler and Shadrick noticed five years ago that many teachers were buying school supplies for their students, Wheeler said. They contacted other 3M plants asking for donations for local schools.
The plant manager has supported it every year, Wheeler said.
In previous years, 3M laid supplies out and let school representatives choose what they wanted. In a COVID-19 world, that wasn’t possible. But Andrews told organizers they could have the supply giveaway if they could be safe.
So 3M brainstormed an alternative.
Retirees spent about 20 hours putting out tables and supplies. Employees at 3M spent another 30 hours filling 101 bags with tape, Post-It Notes, masks and other 3M products.
For Wednesday’s distribution, 3M Club members wore masks and gloves and practiced social distancing. School representatives drove up in front of the 3M warehouse and waited in their cars while Engineers Matt Monte, Bill Blaine and Tim Gunderson loaded trunks and back seats with bags of supplies.
At the far end of the driveway, 3M Manufacturing Engineer Danika Whalen added easel pads and rolls of double-sided tape.
The event was scheduled or 10-11:30 a.m., but schools showed up as early as 9 a.m., organizers said.
3M routinely gives supplies to employees, said Monte, president of 3M Club. Every August, the supplies are given to schools.
Wheeler was glad 3M didn’t have to cancel the 2020 event. People still need supplies, she said.