Greenfield High School Provides Surplus School Furniture to Zambia

By KATHLEEN McKIERNAN, The Recorder, Greenfield, Mass.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

GREENFIELD — Students from Greenfield High School and Zambia in southern Africa will have something in common — the same desks.

This summer, Greenfield High School provided five tractor-trailers filled with surplus furniture to be shipped off to outfit schools in impoverished communities in Zambia.

The excess furniture was part of the school’s transition into the new $66 million high school building. This June, when the school year ended, the school staff filled the old gym with furniture to be moved into the new school, and other furnishings were offered to the local community. But after that, there remained about 1,100 pieces scheduled to be replaced with new furnishings.

Much of the surplus furniture was used, but still functional. It included everything needed to run a school building from student and teacher desks and chairs, file cabinets and bookcases, work tables, shop tables, art tables, lab benches to library furnishings.

The school’s project manager, Construction Monitoring Services, introduced the idea of reuse. CMS is charged with looking out for the town’s interests during construction, which includes finding the most cost-effective way to handle extra furniture.  Working with nonprofits to donate furniture to those in need is something CMS has done for many of its projects, Clerk of the Works Jeff Dome said.

“This was a win-win-win-win solution for us,” said Principal Donna Woodcock in a statement. “Our community and taxpayers win, we send the right message to our students, the environment wins, and children far, far away get the biggest benefit of all. It’s not often that a single project can do so much good.”

After furniture was deemed surplus by the school, CMS contracted with IRN — The Recycling Network, a small firm headquartered in Concord, N.H., to recycle and salvage the items, Dome said. IRN takes old but usable school furniture and makes a match with charity. Instead of bringing dumpsters to the project site, IRN brings tractor trailers. The trailers are filled, locked and sent to needy communities in the U.S. or overseas. Over three days in June, a moving crew packed five trucks with more than 350 student desks, 50 teacher desks, more than 100 tables, plus hundreds of chairs, file cabinets, and bookcases. The move did not cost the town any extra money.

The furnishings were matched with IRN’s nonprofit partner World Vision, and are now in transit to communities and schoolchildren in Zambia.

“It was painful to think of good furniture going into a landfill,” Woodcock said. “Concern for the environment is an important theme at Greenfield High, and throwing away usable furniture sends a wrong message.”

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