Guest Post: Interview with Lorena Alvarez, Inventory Specialist

Pak Lai, spare parts Intern
Pak Leung Lai, spare parts Intern

Lorena Alvarez joined the spare parts team over the summer as Inventory Specialist. This was the first time we actively tracked the type of each donation. This is critical to the formation of a creative reuse program. One of the most rewarding part of this addition to our materials & supplies giveaways was the production of a lesson plan resource for PreK-12 grade teachers filled with over 20 activity ideas incorporating materials we had in bulk from the abundance of donations. This resource was sent to registered teachers in advance of the materials & supplies giveaway.

Alvarez graduated from Cornell University in 2008 with a B.A. focused in Fiber Science Apparel Design-Merchandising & Management. She has over 5 years retail experience & currently teaches at the International Academy of Design & Technology.

Alvarez eventually wants to move out of Texas & go back to work in the fashion industry as a planner/allocator/distribution specialist but she’s having fun doing sourcing & supply chain management stuff for her friends at Kalliope Kids.

Pak:  How was your experience working with spare parts?

Lorena: I loved it! This is an organization I really want to be a part of. I never worked with a “green” organization of reduce, reuse & creativity. It’s about the arts. I always wanted to be a part of the arts community. It was a fun & awesome experience.

spare parts interns Pak (left) & Annie (right) taking inventory of materials & supplies donations. June, 2013 at St. Paul Gym.
spare parts interns Pak (left) & Annie (right) taking inventory of materials & supplies donations. June, 2013 at St. Paul Gym.

Pak: What was your role in helping spare parts?

Lorena: I talked to Mary & she informed me that spare parts was overwhelmed with the whole process of materials storage at St. Paul Catholic School, moving it all to Wonderland of the Americas for the Annual Materials Giveaway & then another relocation at the end of the event. I realized the organization needed an inventory system to help keep track of all the donations. There was no inventory system in place so I created one for spare parts. It helped & is a work in progress that I’m sure will be improved again throughout the year. I’m working on a cheap or free, easy way to organize the data. Excel is the program that I’ve been looking into using since it’s commonly used & not too costly. We’re also thinking of using iPhone or iPad apps for inventory management with bar codes or QR codes.

Pak & Lorena taking a break from inventory. June, 2013
Pak & Lorena taking a break from inventory. June, 2013 at St. Paul Gym.

Pak: Did all the materials find a new home, or were there leftovers?

Lorena: There were materials leftover that were put into storage. spare parts will definitely benefit from an inventory tracking system to better plan & prepare for the Materials Giveaway next year. The organization needs a method to track the material donations being received, & that data analyzed against what teachers need the most from the four categories of materials (art supplies, raw materials, office supplies & miscellaneous). Knowing how much we have & what teachers need or want will help with deciding how many teachers we can accommodate to reduce the amount of left-over materials at the end of the event.

Pak: What do you think spare parts should do next?

Lorena: Contributions to spare parts are tax deductible thanks to Fractured Atlas & at this point can greatly benefit from individual donations & other funding sources. If we can track the data of materials coming in we’ll be able to show the community & potential donors how much would-be-trash is being kept out of landfills. Sharing that information will help spare parts acquire grants & inspire donors to give financially so that spare parts can become a full-time organization, helping teachers & the community year-round–not just one time per year.

I think spare parts also needs to do a little advertising leading up to the giveaway so that teachers can keep it in mind when making their lists of what they need & want for the upcoming school year. Just like with “Black Friday” shopping, teachers can prepare for the giveaway by clipping images & ads of materials they want from catalogues & flyers that they can bring with them to see if spare parts has those items at the giveaway, for example. By getting items from the giveaway they can save their hard-earned money since school districts’ art supply budgets can change from year to year.