Nonprofit school supplies venture moves to Lynn

October 12, 2011
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

A loss for Boston educators is about to be a huge gain for Lynn and surrounding communities when Extras for Creative Learning opens its warehouse doors later this month.

The nonprofit, also known as ExCL, collects unused office and art supplies from companies that may be moving or closing or discontinuing a product line, and offers it to educators at an extremely low fee.



The agency, run by Executive Director Lindsay Keyes and Director Jodi Schmidt, was housed for 15 years in the basement of a Dorchester school until late August when the Boston Fire Department, unexpectedly, kicked them out.

“We were told we had 30 days to move,” said Schmidt.

She noted that the Fire Department deemed the operation a fire hazard, in part because there were not enough sprinklers or smoke detectors in the space, which was originally home to the Boston Latin Academy pool.

Lynn Arts Executive Director Susan Halter, an ExCL member, is not only thrilled the agency has moved to Lynn, but had a hand in the process.

When Schmidt and Keyes learned of their fate, they blasted out an email for help.

ExCL had been operating in a Boston Public School building since it was founded in 1981, but for the first time, Schmidt said, the district announced it had no where else to put the agency.

“(ExCL) sent an email to all their members that said they were losing their space,” Halter said. “I immediately said, ‘would you come to Lynn?’”

“We were willing to go wherever there was space,” Schmidt said.

When they said yes, Halter said she forwarded the email to Economic Development & Industrial Corp. Project Director Mary Jane Smalley. A few days later, they were checking out a space in the J.B. Blood building on Wheeler Street, which is owned by the EDIC.

Keyes and Schmidt recently started moving supplies into a roughly 5,000-square-foot space on the third floor. They are shooting, they said, for an Oct. 19 opening.

“We get so psyched up about warehouse space,” Keyes said. “This was so much better than we expected.”

James M. Cowdell, EDIC’s Executive Director, welcomes the non-profit to the city.

“We are very excited to have ExCL in Lynn,” Cowdell said. “The organization has a long history of helping teachers and students by providing free supplies. We were very happy to help them find suitable space for their operation.”

Halter said the operation is really set up for teachers and since Lynn Arts gives art lessons, they are allowed to participate.

For a $50 a year membership, teachers can visit ExCL up to eight times a year and take an unlimited amount of supplies. The only items that cost extra are furniture and new supplies that are still in the box.

“They have some crazy stuff that you’d really have to be creative to use,” Halter said with a laugh. “And there’s the name creative learning.”

Some of the more peculiar items, she said, include a container of plastic lemons, rolls of different material like plastic, various cloth and sticky-sided felt and a whole section of tile.

“And there is tons and tons of felt,” Halter added. “That’s not that crazy, but it’s more felt then you could ever possibly use.”

The warehouse however also carries more practical items.

Halter said she came back with an arm load of notebooks and name badges, “things we spend hundreds of dollars on.”

ExCL has 712 members but Halter suspects that number will soar when local teachers discover the store.

“I’m so excited that they’re coming,” she said. “It’s great for Lynn public schools.”

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