Maureen Frew, JAM Sponsor
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The Story of JAM
JAM was formed in March of 2016 when two first-grade girls approached me and asked if we could form a club that would make items in our Creation Station, sell the items to individuals in our school district, and then donate the profits to local non-profit organizations. So, Julia, Amelia, and I formed JAM. JAM stands for the first letter of each of our names - Julia, Amelia, and Maureen.
We began to meet every Wednesday after school for an hour. The girls decided what items they wanted to make, the pricing of the items, who we would sell the items to, and how we would deliver the items. We started by making very simple items, such as keychains they braided, buckets they filled with science experiments, and Valentine Poppers that were made out of toilet paper tubes. We capped each item at fifty and each time a new item was created, it sold out! The girls' first donation went to our local fire department to buy smoke detectors for members of our community that needed them for their homes.
Our projects began to increase in sophistication as the girls began to understand supply and demand. The Jammers decided to make Tin Bins. The first bin we made was a bookmark-making kit that was created using an Altoid-type bin. The bin included bookmarks, ribbon, crayons, and beads. We capped our quantity at 100 and once again, we sold out. The girls went on to make a Tic Tac Toe bin, Finger Twister bin, Winter Survival bin, Leprechaun Trap bin, and Valentine's Day bin and each time, selling out of each item. We were able to donate our proceeds to various local non-profits, such as the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, Greater Pittsburgh Jewish Federation, Susan Komen Foundation, Children's Tumor Foundation, Tourette's Association of American, Make-a-Wish, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Pittsburgh, and many more.
In April of 2018, JAM decided that we needed to think of a way to spread kindness in our school and our community. One of our kindergarten students came to a meeting and said, "Mrs. Frew, there will always be bullies. We need to think of a way to show people all the kind people in the world!" We decided to design a simple t-shirt that would express a kind message and #bethekindkid was born! We advertised our simple white t-shirt with the black lettering/logo of #bethekindkid and we received 100 orders in less than one hour! There was such a huge demand for the t-shirts that we eventually had to outsource the printing of the shirts to a local company! These shirts have changed the culture of our school and our community. Our students took the message to heart and began showing kindness without being prompted. We tell our students that they don't need to wear a shirt to be kind BUT if they have the shirt on, they are a kind role model for others.
To date, we have sold over 16,500 t-shirts while helping two local non-profits per month. Each month the girls' research different causes they would like to donate to, present their causes to the group, and the group votes to choose the organizations that our profits will go to that month. We often have representatives from the donors to come and speak about their organization. These speakers have shown JAM that while we may have differences, everyone just wants people to understand them and to be kind to one another.
JAM's love of making has led them to so many incredible opportunities. Adult makers in the Pittsburgh area have reached out and provided us with new and exciting making opportunities. We have had artists teach us book-binding, plastic fusion, crocheting, knitting, fabric dyeing, photography, and blogging. These learning experiences have shown the girls of JAM that there are so many opportunities available to them. Many of the girls have branched off and started their own businesses. We now have a photographer, blogger, clothing designer, bracelet maker, and magazine developer all with their own products and websites.
In March of 2019, Jam began a partnership with the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh with the mission of spreading our kindness initiative. This partnership helped us to create four new JAMS in other school districts around the Pittsburgh area. It is our hope that this partnership will enable us to create many more JAMS across the United States and beyond.
Currently, JAM has two adult sponsors and 60 members from grades K - 6. These girls have learned how to run a small business while giving back to our community. JAMMERS know about supply and demand, profit and loss, packaging, delivery, and customer service. They are truly the epitome of young entrepreneurs who want to make a difference while using their creative spirit.