Did you know that one in every three teachers spends at least $1,000 a year for school supplies, and that first-year teachers spend up to 40 percent more to put together their classroom? This money, according to the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, is from the teacher's own pocket.
With this kind of need for supplies in the school district, the foundation created the Teachers Warehouse, where donated supplies are available to teachers for free. They can browse the available inventory online, then request supplies for their classroom.
"There have been 220 teacher orders so far," said Robyn Hilger, program director of the foundation. "The teachers are so happy."
In June, a closing local business donated $30,000 worth of supplies, including electric staplers, file folders, calculators and hole punchers. Although those associated with the business were sad about the closing, Hilger said they were happy the supplies would benefit kids.
Hilger, who taught in the school district for eight years prior to joining the foundation, emphasized that anything can be donated. Since teachers are creative, the items will be used. One unusual donation was 3,000 pizza boxes that had been misprinted. Instead of letting them be thrown out, Hilger collected the boxes and gave them to teachers who used them for art portfolios and bulletin boards.
Amy Leazer, a fifth-grade teacher at Madison Elementary, has made several trips to the Teachers Warehouse. She has picked up staplers, a printer, a fan and a whiteboard. Teachers are gravitating to the free supplies and telling others in the district about the new program.
"It has all been word of mouth," Leazer said. "If it is easy, accessible and free, teachers grab onto it and want to tell others."
The ordering and receiving process is on a first-come, first-served basis, and the inventory changes often. Donated supplies and equipment can range from file folders to furniture. Since supplies are always needed to sustain the program throughout the year, the organization is actively searching for corporate sponsors while grants will ensure the supplies remain free to educators. Meanwhile, businesses can clean out their inventory and community members can donate office items and hobby tools that are no longer used.
"Our students and teachers desperately need supplies," said Gay Johnson, Teachers Warehouse coordinator. "Teachers Warehouse is turning donations from local businesses into classroom materials and teaching tools. It is very rewarding to be a part of this worthwhile program."
So far, 60 school sites have used Teachers Warehouse. The program is proving to be a treasure chest for the district teachers.
"This is a labor of love," said Hilger. "It is a great way for the community to participate."
For more information, call 879-2007. "Gina A. Dabney