The school rock band pumped up students and teachers as they filed out onto the playground at Andrew Jackson Elementary in Philadelphia. They thought they were there for an assembly to celebrate the band. But they would soon find out that the band was just the opening act for a big surprise.

Just around the corner, about 100 Amazon associates from five area fulfillment centers were waiting for their cue. “These kids have no idea that we’re coming,” said Mary Ellen Mathis, who coordinates Amazon community events throughout Pennsylvania.

It’s the kind of event Mathis lives for — surprising schools, shelters, and other non-profits in communities where Amazon lives and works with product donations. On this day, the special delivery was for Andrew Jackson Elementary. Two Amazon delivery vans full of packages pulled up to the playground where Amazon volunteers unloaded box after box, each one containing school supplies that fulfilled teacher wish lists. The $25,000 donation included everything from Kindles to microscopes, crayons, and notebooks, even a new digital piano for the music program.

“There are no words for it,” said Mathis. “You feel so hopeful, so joyful to be part of helping this community that needs it. And we can be there.”

Mathis is the administrative assistant for Amazon’s general manager at the fulfillment center in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. A big part of her job is to work with associates to identify opportunities for Amazon to give back. “This is personal to a lot of them,” she said. “We’re going out and finding needs in their neighborhood — where they live, their schools, their pet shelters, their homeless shelters — and we decide as a team where the need is the greatest, and we go out together.”

You feel so hopeful, so joyful to be part of helping this community that needs it.
Amazon employee Mary Ellen Mathis

The team identified a need at Andrew Jackson Elementary in South Philadelphia. Teacher Danielle Harrigan included a document camera (a real-time image capture device) on her wish list. With 30 students in her class, it can be hard for students to see what she’s doing.

“And then here came the Amazon vans, and here came the document camera,” Harrigan said. “We are so excited. When someone wants to take us under their wing, we are truly grateful. It makes a big difference in teachers’ lives.”

Mathis is already planning the next community event. She expects to see a lot of the same Amazonians who helped out at Andrew Jackson Elementary, along with some new faces, too. “Volunteering is contagious,” said Mathis. “Once you’re a part of that joy, you want to keep doing it. I can’t wait for the next one.”

Amazon is committed to communities where employees live and work. In addition to product donations, the company contributes financially to tens of thousands of nonprofits across the United States and Canada through AmazonSmile.

A crowd of people are pictured outdoors on a sunny day. A brick building is behind them.
Amazon employees wave and cheer during the donation event at Andrew Jackson Elementary.