PREBLE COUNTY — Valerie Durkle combined her love for children and her love for tote bags into one cause that has positively impacted her community.
The third grade teacher partnered with Kristl Ord, both of whom do direct sales for Thirty-One Gifts, as they put together a lunchbox drive that benefited Preble County Children’s Services.
Friends, acquaintances, local businesses, and sometimes even strangers, bought a $20 thermal lunch tote from Durkle or Ord, who then used their commission from the sale to fill the boxes with school supplies.
In all, the two raised 80 lunchboxes – cramming them with things like crayons, glue, pencils, and binders – for children in need.
“I wanted to do something that just gives back to the community. I try to do a fundraiser every couple months then donate my commission. But rather than just giving money, I wanted to give a product,” said Durkle. “As a teacher, I’ve had foster children in my class several times. They always have a special place in your heart. Especially as a mother, you just want to help in some way. Since I can’t bring them home with me, it’s just a small way I can help.”
There are currently 100 school-age children in foster care in Preble County alone. While there are several backpack initiatives for children in need, it is not as easy for a child to obtain a lunchbox.
And even if the child doesn’t carry a lunch to school, the trendy totes that Durkle and Ord donated are more than just for storing food.
“It’s not just a lunchbox. It’s more about something that can be theirs,” said Durkle.
As both a mother and a teacher, students in foster care have always tugged at her heartstrings.
“Some kids just have no choice. They are stuck in situations where they have no choice whatsoever,” she said. “Not only does this help them but it opens up people’s mind a little bit. It makes’ them aware of something they may not be aware of.
She doesn’t want this to be the end of the road for the lunchbox drive, either. Next year, if Children’s Services still has a need for lunchboxes, Durkle will gladly partner with them again. If not, then she’ll partner with a local school.
“We’ll find a need wherever there is one,” she said.
Anyone interested in donating is still encouraged to contact Durkle at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 937-441-8777.