While visiting a second-grade classroom in Chandler some seven years ago, Barbara Blalock witnessed a 7-year-old girl hand in her right tennis shoe as collateral. She was borrowing a pencil from her teacher.
The teacher’s logic for the exchange, Blalock notes: This was the only way she knew she would get the pencil back. Supplies were that low, and she didn’t have many to give out.
But it wasn’t just pencils. Glue, crayons, and plenty of other supplies, most that she would buy with her own money.
Since that day, Blalock knew she needed to do something about the situation. After leaving her job as a senior regional preschool director at the YMCA, she founded Treasures 4 Teachers.
Treasures 4 Teachers is a nonprofit organization and resource center that helps provide much-needed school materials for teachers. Blalock started by asking Intel, which operates multiple large-scale facilities in the Chandler area, if it had surplus office supplies that it might considered to donate. Coincidentally, Intel had their “Dunk your Junk” event where employees will clean out their space of materials they weren’t using anymore.
Blalock started collecting the supplies, initially storing them at her house before sorting them to give to schools. The organization has since grown from Blalock’s garage to a 10,000-square-feet location in Tempe and another in Tucson.
And last year, thanks to donations and gifts, and the organizations’ more than 30 sponsors, Treasures 4 Teachers provided supplies to 2,500 teachers, reaching 75,000 students in the process.
“State budgets and education budgets are being cut, and the first place they are slashed is classroom supplies,” Blalock said. “And I think the legislators and the people up there think teachers will figure it out, and they have, but it’s not fair that they have to.”
In order to become part of the organization, one must pay a one-year $35 fee and work closely with students such as schools, community and youth organizations or before and after-school programs. People from all over the state can apply to become members. Supplies that can be found at Treasures 4 Teachers center include: pencils, pens, paper, staplers, hole punches, folders, books and even furniture. Basic items are free while more intricate items have a cost.
Recently, Blalock was part of the “Fast Pitch Social Innovation Expo,” hosted by Social Venture Partners Arizona. Social Venture Partners takes an entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy, helping nonprofit organizations get funds from its partners for educational and youth-related efforts.
As finalists, the eight remaining nonprofits received seven weeks of training to be able to tell their stories in three minutes to a panel of judges, with thousands of dollars for their organization on the line.
Blalock, on behalf of Treasures 4 Teachers, did not win the grand prize, but did impress enough to earn the $2,500 Mentor’s Choice award.
And to boot, an anonymous member of the audience at the March event at Tempe Center for the Arts pledged $25,000 to the organization.
With the money earned, Blalock said she hopes to start an idea for the organization that would help teachers who can’t come to her: making Treasures 4 Teachers mobile. Blalock said that one of the biggest problems is that many teachers can’t travel to her. By adding the “Treasures 4 Teachers on Wheels” service she can bring supplies to 3,000 more teachers and help an additional 100,000 students.
Andrea Ellingboe, program coordinator for the Kids Club with the Kyrene School district, said that Treasures 4 Teachers has been an incredible resource for her because a lot of her activities with children involve recycling. Ellingboe heard about Treasures 4 Teachers from a fellow staff member at her school.
“Not only are they a great resource for supplies but also for inspiring ideas to help children,” Ellingboe said.
“When you’re doing something for someone that’s worth it, it gives you a great feeling, especially kids who are going to grow up and become the leaders of tomorrow,” Blalock said.
If you go
What: Treasures 4 Teachers
When: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: 1230 W Southern Ave #105, Tempe
Information: (480) 751-1122 or www.treasures4teachers.org
• Abel, a senior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.