Cocktails for crayons

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Nancy Bolzle, executive director of The Pencil Box; Frazier and Rep. Katie Henke, honorary co-chairs for Cocktails for Crayons; and Event Co-chair Linda Bates. Rep. Henke is a former kindergarten teacher.

New event raises funds to provide school supplies for disadvantaged students.

The yellow school bus, boxes of crayons and the smell of newly sharpened pencils — signs of a new school year. Retired Union Public Schools teacher Jackie Swafford remembers preparing for her classroom each year. But for many teachers, that excitement is tinged with sadness. Not all of their students will be prepared for that first day.

“School supplies are something most of us take for granted,” Swafford says. “Unfortunately, the reality is that many of our students don’t have the resources to purchase them.”

To help teachers avoid the common practice of paying out of pocket to fill the gap for needy students, Swafford volunteers with The Pencil Box, a new nonprofit that provides free school supplies for teachers. Its store will open Oct. 6 at 916 W. 23rd St.

Kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers at Tulsa Public Schools with at least 70 percent of students in the National School Lunch Program will be eligible to shop for school supplies, says Nancy Bolzle, executive director of The Pencil Box.

“It is not unusual for Tulsa teachers to spend $500-$1,000 out of their own pockets to buy school supplies for their students,” Bolzle says. “And with additional educational budget cuts, it is a trend that will continue for some time.”

For a $35 annual participation fee per individual, teachers will receive a gift card stocked with points that can purchase supplies at The Pencil Box throughout the year. Bolzle says the nonprofit plans to eventually serve all eligible public and nonprofit schools in Tulsa County.

To help support its mission, volunteers of The Pencil Box will host “Cocktails for Crayons” on Oct. 15 in hopes of raising not only funds for school supplies, but also awareness.

“The number of disadvantaged students that can’t afford school supplies can fill the BOK Center twice,” says Event Co-chair Mary Anne Lewis. “Through this unique and delightful event we can provide these students with the tools they need to succeed.”

The inaugural cocktail soiree will be held in the Grand Hall of the Mayo Hotel. Internationally acclaimed Tulsa artist Otto Duecker, an American Hyperrealist painter and draughtsman and a former TPS teacher, has rendered a painting specifically for this event.

“The painting is titled ‘No Pencils, No Crayons,’” Bolzle says. “We will auction it off during the evening.”

Crayon-themed cocktails will be served to guests as they enjoy music of jazz pianistRick Fortner. In addition, Tim Gomez, CEO of Dixon Ticonderoga, the world’s largest manufacturer of pencils and Prang art supplies, will be the featured speaker.

“Tim is a dynamic corporate leader so committed to making a difference in the classroom,” Bolzle says. “Because of his own experiences, he understands and appreciates the importance of others stepping up and helping when some are unable.”

Oct. 15 — Cocktails for Crayons

5:30-7:30 p.m. The Grand Hall at the Mayo Hotel, 115 W. Fifth St. $125. Benefits The Pencil Box. Visit www.pencilboxtulsa.org.

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