Calico Corners donates remnants to schools
By not wasting leftovers, students get materials for hands-on education

By Chris Bennett - Special to The Freeman

Jan. 24, 2018

 Remnants and scraps at Calico Corners, 18525 West Bluemound Road in Brookfield, are donated to area school districts for educational uses.
Photo courtesy of Jeannie Bonk

BROOKFIELD — The old adage of “waste not, want not” offers an apt description of the philanthropic efforts at Calico Corners.

The interior design and home decor store, which is located at 18525 West Bluemound Road in Brookfield, goes to creative lengths to avoid wasting the scraps of fabric and other material generated by the business.

As a result, school children in the Elmbrook and Waukesha school districts, plus some others at local churches, do not want for craft supplies.

Greg and Jeannie Bonk own the Calico Corners with partner Willis Swenson, and have since 1984. Jeannie said that about eight years ago, she decided to call the school districts local to her store to see if use existed for scraps and remnants.

Calico Corners generates some fabric waste through construction of custom window treatments, furniture and bedding. Jeannie said Calico Corners also gets sample fabrics. Sometimes, a fabric also just doesn’t sell, and inventory must be purged.

“I hated to throw them in the garbage,” Bonk said. “That seems wasteful. I thought the school districts could use them for art projects, or whatever else.”


 Remnants and scraps at Calico Corners, 18525 West Bluemound Road in Brookfield, are donated to area school districts for educational uses.
Photo courtesy of Jeannie Bonk

Most of the remnants and scraps are odd-sized, smaller pieces. Jeannie said pieces of one to three yards in size are rare. Larger scraps go back to the customer at the end of the job — they paid for the material.

“We also have remnants that aren’t selling that we throw in there,” Jeannie said. “And then we have work room stock, scraps from window treatments and pillows, and we throw that in there, too.”

Jeannie said she distributes supplies about four times per year. Mollie Haubenschild, career & technical education coordinator in the Waukesha School District, jokingly said she’d make a quilt with some of the remnants if she knew how.

“Some samples are beautiful,” Haubenschild said. “It’s really nice. The quality is stunning. For our kids to be able to use and see the materials is a unique experience.”

Haubenschild said a teacher in family and consumer education at Waukesha North uses the materials from Calico Corner in an interior design class.

“Students use the materials in a variety of different projects where they’re designing anything that would require fabric,” Haubenschild said. “They could really use it for anything they are designing.”

A large amount of scraps went to Les Paul Middle School in Waukesha, and are used in a program called Compass. Haubenschild said the program is one in which students are designing their own learning experiences based on their own interest.

Haubenschild said one of the teachers involved in the Compass program is going to utilize the scraps and have students design and build a flag that represents who they are as a person.

Some of the scraps also find use in elementary schools in an activity called maker’s space. The students are presented with a problem, and are tasked with creating and constructing a solution.

Haubenschild said the district receive donations related to a number of different classroom disciplines.

“A lot of our career and technical education programs do rely on donations in order to make projects come to life,” Haubenschild said. “We work with a variety of different industries.”

Haubenschild said some welding companies provide supplies for welding, and added that auto classes and wood classes routinely receive donations of materials.

“Those are hands-on experiences the kids can’t get and the school can’t fund without local businesses,” Haubenschild said. “(Calico Corners) is a great example of a business that realized students can use these materials and benefit from it.”