Cranston Family Center, TJ Maxx hold successful supply drive


Not many people are thinking about back to school supplies in April, when school is still in session for two more months.

Luckily, for the Cranston Family Center, Carlos Laires, manager of TJ Maxx in Cranston, he was.

“In April I wanted to give back to our community in Cranston,” Laires said. “I gave it some thought and decided to see if we could repeat what we did as a company earlier this year when we had our company conference. So I reached out to the Cranston School department and made my first contact with Ann Carlson who got me connected to Robin Gervais (co-coordinator for Family Center), and explained what we wanted to do. Once I got what they were in need of I asked her to give us a goal to meet but that I could not make any promises and would keep her up to date on how we were doing.”

The deadline was for the Gladstone Back to School Meet & Greet to be held on Friday, Sept. 1.

“We started talking together in early June and we all decided that they would collect for the entire summer, so about a good eight weeks. I choose Gladstone because each year we get supplies donated from different places and we try to change the schools receiving them. Since we work with the Title 1 schools, we do our best to help them all and Gladstone was up for this year. If there are any supplies left at the end of the day they will be offered up to our other Title 1 schools for the principals to give to students as needed,” said Gervais.

The drive was to collect as many school supplies as they could as a region. They collected backpacks, crayons, markers, notebooks and much more.

“TJ Maxx has always been a Neighbor of Choice company, and I have always been proud of working for a company that really does give back to our local communities,” Laires said.

This district consists of 11 stores with about half in Massachusetts and the other half in Rhode Island. Laires had a meeting with district manager Mike McGrath and started a plan on how to get the wheels in motion.

“We came up with assigning each store with one category to collect from each store that way we could get all of the supplies that Robin wanted for example my store in Cranston was to collect colored pencils,” he said.

Laires also decided to give a small incentive for the associates to get excited about collecting so they held a “jeans day” for each associate that made a donation. If they donated $3, they could have a jeans day; if they donated three or more items they could have a jeans weekend

“It was a huge success because associates love to wear jeans at work on a daily basis and boy did they ever. We exceeded the 200 per item per store [challenge] and even got some funds to fill in any shortfalls. We ran this drive for just a little over a month,” Laires said.

In addition to Laires and McGrath, the other representatives from TJMaxx included Robert Hines, District Loss Prevention Manager; Amanda Pimentel, District Administrative Assistant; Ken Velzis, Backroom Coordinator; and Penny Whelan, Administrative Coordinator.

Grace Swinski and Lisa Milson from the Family Center joined Gervais and Susan Buonanno, Principal of Gladstone Elementary.

They also donated 300 of their recycling bags as a means to put all these supplies in to and give them out as well, a three hundred-dollar donation.

“Mike came to my store to inform me of my status just before we ended and I was blown away on how much we collected and that was not the end of it because Mike also informed me that our company would also be presenting a check as well and I was so excited I could barely hold it in when Robin had called me to find out how we made out but I never told her as it was to be a surprise and boy was it ever as we presented at the open house,” said Laires.

“TJ Maxx was so very generous with all their school supplies, they also brought snacks and drinks for the children which was another surprise.”

The TJ Maxx staff was so helpful and they were excited to be part of this great event, actually we are already planning on doing this again,” said Gervais.

Buonanno, was very pleased and excited by the success of the event.

“Creating strong partnerships is extremely important in education today. The biggest excitement of the Meet and Greet was the partnership with TJ Maxx. That company came and distributed school supplies to every child that arrived. The students’ faces lit up with delight when they received the supplies. It was great help for the families considering some families have two or three students in the school. Additionally, we had Amarmark, the food service vendor and Apsen, the data system to assist families in further understanding the programs,” said Buonanno.

Gervais was overwhelmed with the turnout and all the accomplishments that were realized. 

“We had a wonderful turn out for the back to school celebration at Gladstone. Over 300 bags were given out to the students filled with school supplies. What a wonderful partnership we were so lucky enough to be chosen to work with them. The children were all very excited and the parents couldn't thank us enough. The biggest surprise of all was they presented me with a check in the amount of $1,100,” said Gervais.

For more information about the Cranston Family Center/COZ and the services/programs they provide, call them at 270-8495 or email


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