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The Drive to Support Classroom Central

When I was first approached in 2000 by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and my Senior Vice President at Duke Power at the time about the potential of establishing a ‘free store for teachers,’ I have to admit I had mixed feelings.  As the person responsible for providing philanthropic gifts in the Charlotte community for Duke Power, I knew the demand for funds throughout the community was enormous and the competition would be tremendous to identify sufficient funding for such a program.   I was equally astounded at the needs throughout the community for basic school supplies that many of us take for granted and how much money teachers were spending out of their own pocket to help underprivileged students. 

We agreed to establish a Feasibility Study team that would both quantify the needs and determine if the community had the financial capacity to support a new non-profit in the Charlotte region.

The feasibility study lasted well over a year and served to clearly validate both points – the needs that existed and community support both far surpassed all of our expectations.   The local community said loud and clear – “we fully recognize the need and we are committed to help!”  The doors of Classroom Central opened in October 2002 behind strong local corporate support and volunteerism.  

And through incredibly strong staff and volunteer leadership over the years, far too many to name individually, the results have also far surpassed our initial expectations.  Classroom Central currently serves over 150 schools and more than 90,000 students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and surrounding districts.  In the almost eight years that the organization has been in existence, more than $22 million in free school supplies has been distributed!    

But much is yet to be done.  The needs continue to rise and those basic supplies needed more than ever.   Did you know that more than 53.4% of students enrolled in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools are economically disadvantaged and may be living in poverty? A lot of these students will show up on the first day of school empty handed.  Many teachers continue to spend hundreds of dollars from their own pockets each year to provide basic supplies to these students just so they can complete daily assignments.

The best way to describe my personal belief and commitment in the program is that after the feasibility study was over I eagerly accepted the invitation to serve on the inaugural Board of Directors, even though I was already serving on 7 or 8 other boards at that time.   And to this day, I remain a staunch financial contributor each year and support the various School Drive programs.   Also, my immediate family and I started a tradition a few years ago to provide donations to charities in place of Christmas gifts.  One of my designated charities each year is Classroom Central.   I believe in putting your money where your mouth, or in this case, where your heart is.  Of all the initiatives I have been blessed to be a part of, being involved in the establishment of Classroom Central ranks right up there as one of the most rewarding.    

So please help!  The NASCAR Hall of Fame is proud to partner and support Classroom Central for a second year to host a supply drive. The Hall will be accepting donations in the main lobby from Saturday, Aug. 6 – Sunday, Aug. 14.   Last year, the NASCAR Hall of Fame staff and our customers embraced this concept and provided over 700 items to assist those in need.  This year, we are at in again.  Anyone bringing a school supply to the NHOF will receive a free simulator ride with the purchase of a general admission ticket. 

-Winston Kelley


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If you’re looking for some pedal-to-the-metal fun, look no further than the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Hall is fueled with more than 50 interactive experiences like tire-changing stations, realistic race simulators, a broadcast booth and even a Kids Zone where children can be wide open. We guarantee to get your adrenaline racing. And after you work up an appetite, grab a bite to eat at the Pit Stop Café or a souvenir to help remember it all at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Gear Shop. You’ll find it all at the Hall.