Since 2002, the Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Teaching Tools Store, sponsored by Suncoast Credit Union, has provided teachers at local high-poverty public schools with much-needed classroom supplies for their students.
Last Wednesday, the store hit a significant milestone – it has distributed $20 million worth of school supplies to Hillsborough County Public School students and teachers.
To celebrate, a group of Foundation, Suncoast and Hillsborough County Public School representatives surprised the $20 million shopper – fifth-grade Cleveland Elementary School teacher Patricia Webb -- with a cart full of board games, classroom items and gift bags for each of her students.
“The kids are going to be so surprised,” said Webb, who taught for 25 years in Broward County before coming to Hillsborough this year. “It’s just wonderful. I’m in awe.”
The concept for the Teaching Tools Store was created by a team of local business leaders determined to provide free school supplies to students living in poverty. Using an established business model called A Gift for Teaching combined with a generous gift of $100,000 from the Fanny Landwirth Foundation, the Store officially opened its doors in 2002, serving 17 high-poverty schools. The Store quickly expanded its capacity to serve more students with a two-year $200,000 Bank of America Neighborhood Builder Grant. In 2006, the program merged with the Hillsborough Education Foundation. It was called Teaching Tools for Hillsborough Schools and served 70 schools.
Today, the Teaching Tools Store is a real brick-and-mortar store housed on the first floor of the Hillsborough Education Foundation office on North Howard Avenue. It serves 140 of the school district’s 164 schools that receive federal Title 1 funding. At these schools, at least 67 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced price lunch, which is based on income level of the families served. The store provides more than $2 million in free school supplies annually to more than 68,000 students.
“Every donation we receive, large or small, helps us connect as a community to solve the issue of providing basic needs for Hillsborough County students to succeed in the classroom,” Foundation President Phil Jones said.
By “shopping” in the store, which is operated by the Foundation and staffed by volunteers, a teacher can acquire nearly $2,000 in free classroom supplies throughout the year.
“In nine years of overseeing the Teaching Tools program, I’ve seen it grow from serving 50 to 140 Title I schools in Hillsborough County,” said Denise Becker, the Foundation’s associate director of programs. “With the help of our amazing community – including donors, volunteers and of course our teachers – we’ve reached our milestone of $20 million of school supplies being distributed into Hillsborough County Public Schools.”
To donate time or support to the Teaching Tools Store, contact Becker at (813) 574-0287.