Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Gift for Teachers

After covering an event at Lake Eola called Push Play, I decided to find out more about the organizers who were from A Gift for Teaching (AGFT). AGFT offers FREE school supplies to Central Florida's disadvantaged school children. This organization is located off of John Young Parkway at 6501 Magic Way. The building is a nondescript brick warehouse. When I walked in I was impressed by a store filled with vibrant color that rivaled any Office Max or Staples.
I met with Audrey who has worked for AGFT for five years and is the longest running employee of the company which was formed 11 years ago. She gave me a tour of the facility. She explained that more than half of the students in Orlando schools are on the free or reduced price lunch. The reduced price for lunches is just 40 cents. Students that can not afford that are often faced with the choice between food or school supplies.
This is where AGFT steps in, they seek out local businesses to donate surplus supplies, the kind of stuff that otherwise would end up in a landfill. The company also has fundraisers, events and some grants to keep afloat. They have never relied on government grants because all the paperwork would be overwhelming.
Audrey said that in some ways things are getting harder because of the slowing economy. However many companys are going out of business and all the supplies are being donated to the cause as a tax write off.
The gorgeous facility is entirely staffed by volunteers each afternoon. AGFT has founded a work woman's prison program where large stock paper is cut up and packaged into bound journals, flash cards puppets and craft supplies. Many of these inmates have children who benefit from the program. One area of the facility offers new socks and underwear. Some children can not afford new clothes and wear the same outfit every day of the week.
Teachers enter the facility each afternoon and "shop" for their students in need. Teachers can take advantage of $517 worth of merchandise when they shop. There are limits on how many items a given teacher can take of any given item. This allows all the teachers to benefit from all the supplies. AGFT has donated over 45 million dollars worth of supplies to students for free over the years. They have given away over 4 million pencils and over 130 thousand teachers have visited the facilities.

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