By Christine keeling
District educators were delighted with a delivery from a nonprofit organization.
Austintown Middle School teachers Alex Davis, Kari Knight and Michelle Best received supplies for their classroom this week from the Help a Teacher Teach organization.
The Youngstown-based organization with the support of donations offers full-time teachers of Mahoning County students in kindergarten through 12th grade the opportunity to apply for free classroom supplies each month.
Their efforts help alleviate some of the out-of-pocket expenses teachers incur trying to provide students the proper supplies.
“It’s what my kids really need,” said Knight, as she looked at the stack of books she received. “When the students get a book they can read, it’s like, ‘hallelujah.’”
The special-education teacher said she ordered literature that was appropriate and not too juvenile for her students because those types of books are not available at the school’s library.
She said normally she would spend $300 to $500 a year buying supplies for her students, but now she can ask HATT for specifically what she needs.
“Only each teacher knows what they need for the classroom,” said Sharon Dundee, HATT’s communication director.
Requests have included hand sanitizer, tissues, dry eraser, folders and anti-bullying manuals.
“When we deliver stuff and teachers are so appreciative, it’s good enough for me,” said Bernard Repasky, HATT’s executive director.
He said he started the organization to give back to the community after his wife, Cindy, lost her battle with cancer in 2009.
Repasky said when his brother, John Repasky, talked about how much money he spent buying supplies for his students, it made him realize how many people take that for granted.
He knows every kid’s family can’t afford supplies and that often teachers fill in the gaps so kids can have a level playing field, he said.
“This is about the kids in the community,” Repasky said.
The seven-member organization began granting teachers’ requests in September.
“Our folks love it,” said Doug McGlynn, principal at Fitch and part of HATT’s board of directors.
He said the school probably lost 25 to 35 percent of its supply budget, and the organization is helping fill the void.
“The budget is so tight; 12 teachers used it right away and now 48 are using it,” said McGlynn.
Repasky said the organization has 150 Mahoning County teachers registered.
He wishes he could fill every request, for every teacher in the county, he said.
To help meet that goal, HATT is having a secret Santa campaign, throughout the holidays. Donors can fill a wish list by submitting $50.
All contributions can be made on HATT’s website at www.helpateacherteach.org or by mail to P.O. Box 2906, Youngstown, Ohio 44511. Donations are tax-deductible.
The organization will also pick up items from companies or individuals that can be used in the classroom.
“We want to continue to make the learning environment a good environment,” Repasky said.