Indianapolis groups help teachers save hundreds on school supplies: ‘Our kids struggle enough’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s no secret teachers spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of their own dollars to stock and prepare their classrooms each school year.

It’s a national issue that hits home for many central Indiana teachers.

Sonya Lord-Chamberlain has been a teacher for 32 years. Now at Arsenal Tech High School for Indianapolis Public Schools, she’s no stranger to the cost of school supplies.

“The dreaded money out of your pocket,” said Lord-Chamberlain, “We got to give these kids the best experience we can give them, and the only way to do that is to get those supplies to them.”

So familiar in fact, the supplies are now included in her household budget.

“If I would include everything I get for free as well and donations, I would probably spend about $1,200-$1,500 a year,” Lord-Chamberlain added.

It’s either she pays, or her students suffer. Thankfully, there’s help just around the corner at Teachers' Treasures, an organization that serves Marion County schools that have 60 percent or higher free or reduced lunch rates.

“We operate like any other store, but everything here is free for teachers,” said Hanna Yaeger-Busch, the Operations Manager and volunteer at Teachers' Treasures, “Teachers get to come in one time a month, they get to shop, and they get to take upwards of 300 dollars’ worth of school supplies back to their students.”

Since Teachers' Treasures began operation in 2000, they’ve given out $62 million worth of school supplies. The organization was recently able to open a new satellite location thanks to a $50,000 grant from another group, Junior League of Indianapolis.

Both groups are working together for one purpose, the students.

“If Teachers' Treasures had not applied for this grant, some of these teachers might not have been able to get these things for the classroom,” said Patrice Dawson, the President of Junior League of Indianapolis, “I didn’t really understand the impact that it meant until I went to the store to see it open.”

According to a survey by the National Center for Educational Statistics, 94% of teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms. On average, a teacher will shell out around $400 and some spending close to $1,000.

“We had a teacher come in last week who, I told her her total and she got embarrassed and she thought she was going to have to pay for it,” said Yaeger-Busch, “I told her, no that’s how much you saved. You saved over $200 today. Her face just lit up.”

And that’s what makes it worth it for Teachers' Treasures and the Junior League of Indianapolis, because no teacher should have to spend their paychecks on hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplies.

“Our kids struggle enough at IPS that we just need to give them the best opportunity, and the donations we get from places like Teachers' Treasures is wonderful because it helps us give them a step ahead and gives them the supplies they need,” said Lord-Chamberlain.

If you’re a teacher looking for assistance, click here to visit the Teachers' Treasures website and find out how to get involved.

To learn more about Junior League of Indianapolis and their grant efforts to help non-profits in Central Indiana, click here.

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