Saturday, September 17, 2011

Paper Plus

It seems our lives are often littered with paper, but for a child in a third or fourth world country paper is often a treasure. I remember Lejla Allison describing how she used a notebook for several years as a child in Bosnia by erasing the pages with a rubber band wrapped around a stick, so I always try to put some type of paper in each box we pack for Operation Christmas Child.

This year I've been challenging people to buy reams or cases of filler paper and we're getting volunteers to count out and staple packets of paper. Notebooks are preferable, but in the volume we do it's been hard to find enough of them at a good price.

When it comes to providing things for these precious boxes, I love how God amazes and amuses me all at the same time. Two weeks ago I got a hot tip on buying composition notebooks online at WalMart. The deal was for 40 cents for a 5-pack of notebooks--only 8 cents each. I was able to place an online order for 103 5-packs at one WalMart and 125 at another. But when I went to pick them up I got nothing but frustration and hassle. They wouldn't honor my order and I left without any notebooks, chalking it up to the "if it sounds too good to be true..." axiom.

Fast forward to this week when Target discounted their school supplies to 75% off. On Wednesday I got a tip from a Facebook friend and cruised up to Target to get 384 spiral-bound notebooks for only 5 cents each. While I was loading my cart I noticed they had shelves full of composition books priced at 10 cents each. Too pricey for me, but if they ever came down to 90% off they'd be 4 cents each and I'd be able to scarf up a great deal.

On Thursday I stopped at Target again to get items that were 70-75% off on the Dollar Spot area and I checked again on the composition books--still 10 cents.

This morning I went in and found the shelves of school supplies empty. Horrified, I scurried to find a manager. First contact called by the service desk was Heather, the front end manager. She said they were probably salvaged out and given to charity. With uncharacteristic boldness I asked her how I could get our charity on that list.

That brought a call to Jim, the manager. He said school supplies wouldn't be salvaged but kept until they were sold. He said they must have been moved somewhere else in the store and if I could find them he'd give me a great deal on them. The hunt was on!

I checked the stationery end caps, but no luck. Then I returned to the seasonal area and found a helpful worker who pointed me to the very back aisle of the store and there they were in all their beautiful lined glory.

Back to the front of the store where I found Jim and inquired about the price. "Well," he started, "they're 10 cents now so how about 5 cents?" I had that 90% off figure in my mind, so I countered "How about 4 cents?" He shrugged and agreed.

The ensuing hassle of dragging two flats of them to the front of the store was compounded when they decided they had to separate them by upc number. In the end I offered to come back when they had it all figured out.

Four hours later they called and I and my dutiful husband went to retrieve the bounty. Two vehicles filled with 2,902 composition books with covers flexible enough to bend and fit into a shoebox for a grand total of $116.08.

The best part is that the faculty at Belle Valley school is designating their Jeans Day money for Operation Christmas Child this week and that should almost cover the cost.

Just think--2,902 kids will have a notebook for school. And I'm so glad God foiled the previous deal at WalMart. That's just a plus.

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