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.
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: 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.
Time flies when you’re organizing, emailing, publicizing, writing curriculum, dancing, laughing & taking pictures! Our last official gathering was last week at Los Cocos Fruteria y Taqueria but the pictures below were taken on the last day at Wonderland of the Americas earlier this month. We’re super proud of this team & look forward to staying in touch with Chris, Dezi, Lisa & Pak! Here are their words from their summer with spare parts.
1. spare parts’ internship is officially over, what are you planning to do with the extra time?
Chris: While the spare parts internship may be over in theory, the connections & actions that we have put out into the universe still have a momentum. spare parts can’t get rid of me that easily! I’ll still be around with my camera. 🙂 I’ll just be able to sleep nine or more hours a night again!
Dezi: I am planning to look into more universities & finishing my senior year at Providence Catholic School. I will also continue making eco-friendly crafts & regular crafts.
Lisa: I’m now working for Advise TX through Trinity University, a branch of the National College Advising Corps. This program trains recent graduates as college advisers & places them in lower-income high schools around San Antonio. We help students with anything & everything surrounding the college application process. I will be the college adviser at Harlandale High School.
Pak: I just graduated in college with an international business degree. Right now I’m in New York City for a while to explore the big town overflowing with different cultures, architecture & possibly network with people & businesses to look for jobs.
2. What was the best part of your spare parts internship?
Chris: The best part of my spare parts internship was putting names to faces at the materials giveaway. Meeting teachers & hearing their stories about how important our volunteer efforts were in their classrooms gave some closure.
Dezi: The best part was working with the kids during the spare parts art camp! I really loved working with kids because they have huge imaginations. We had a lovely bunch of kids that inspired me to become an art teacher.
Lisa: Working with the spare parts team. We had such a collaborative, supportive & fun group of crazies that made this experience so worthwhile.
Pak: The entire internship was the best part! The people who chose to donate stuff to spare parts chose to make a difference to create more artistic opportunities for kids in San Antonio! I also just love the idea of recycling & reusing materials for art making or something that doesn’t end up in the trash. Our earth can’t take any more waste. spare parts also stands for less consumption–it’s time for everyone to go green!
3. What was most challenging?
Chris: The most challenging aspect of my duties included keeping registration & questions maintained. Following up with hundreds of teachers’ email correspondence with organizational language & professionalism is fun!
Dezi: Saying goodbye to everyone! It was a blessing working with such talented people.
Lisa: Receiving donations during the setup of the storefronts at the last week before July 26. I loved that people really wanted to donate to spare parts after they heard about the final giveaway day, but the last-minute organization was stressful!
Pak: Since spare parts doesn’t have a permanent space & is based in all volunteer time, every summer we have to start over from beginning & organize everything from accepting donations in a different location. Then we have to communicate everything to the teachers, individual donors, participating organizations, companies through social media and other avenues of publicity. The good thing is we had a strong community to help out, awesome teamwork within the interns & the founder Mary E. Cantu to lead. This summer was a complete success!
4. What should spare parts should do next?
Chris: spare parts will be starting negotiations for a world peace treaty shortly. Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates! Actually, spare parts should strive to be the recipient of a generous grant, start a capital campaign, or partnership to establish physical headquarters with a loading dock & storage, cultivate a diverse board of directors, hire financial/material donor expansion associates, find a pro-bono legal expert, create digital archives, downloadable content & resources, an audio/visual repository of stories at every level of reach, galleries-both physical & digital-to show the world what spare parts creative reuse looks like & hire an education team for workshops, demos, blog postings & special events. The sky is the limit! Now, let’s make it happen.
Dezi: TAKE OVER THE WORLD! I believe spare parts can truly change the way people look at reusable & recycled items.
Lisa: Take it global, baby! But seriously. More organizations like spare parts need to exist. Art education can thrive when kids realize they already have the tools & the materials to foster their creativity, right at home.
Pak: spare parts need a home! Hopefully spare parts will seek a sponsor that can provide a big permanent space for them so they can accept donations anytime of the year, hold workshops & events & of course have more giveaways to teachers! And I hope spare parts will get grants from the city to grow further in the near future & help more teachers.
5. Anything else you’d like to share?
Chris: Incorporate spare parts into your life. Your home, classroom or workplace is a creative space where meaningful change can happen. “Trash is the failure of imagination!” -Aaron Kramer
Dezi: spare parts helped me secure my decision of becoming an art teacher. This internship has really helped me gain real life experience I will definitely need in the future.
Lisa: Trash really is failure of the imagination! (Quote by Aaron Kramer)
Pak: My hometown Hong Kong is one of the most wasteful cities in the world. My goal is to bring this awesome spare parts idea back to my hometown & organize & start a spare parts over there to help with teachers & youth. The most important thing is to reduce waste by recycling & reusing materials into fantastic artwork.