With limited budgets, funding cuts and other challenges, teachers today often find shortfalls in meeting their classroom needs. Some Bulloch County educators have discovered an easy, no-cost way to secure supplies, accessories and classroom needs with the simple click of a computer mouse.
Accounts with the online charity donorschoose.org have helped supply local classrooms with tables, headphones, field trips and even a year’s supply of tissue and antibacterial wipes.
Two Statesboro-area elementary schools in particular have benefitted from the website, which costs
nothing and pairs teacher’s needs with donors and companies who are willing to help make sure children get the best education possible, said Haley Greene, spokesperson for the Bulloch County school system.
One of the first Bulloch County teachers to discover the program is Stacy DiNello, who teaches first grade at Mill Creek Elementary School.
Mill Creek Elementary School Principal Patrick Hill said he is very pleased with the fact that DiNello has, over the years, collected over $20,000 worth of donated items for her classes at no cost to the school system.
“There are a lot of different opportunities, and we have a few teachers who have been very successful,” he said. “It’s another way to get what we need without having to use extra budgetary money.”
DiNello said she first discovered the site about four years ago, “when the recession hit so hard.” She heard about the program on an Oprah Winfrey show, and decided to try it after learning another teacher has successfully done so.
It amazed her that “perfect strangers” would donate to people they didn’t know, and that it “only took a few weeks for the donations to arrive.”
One donation request for $400 in supplies was filled very quickly “by people I didn’t even know,” she said.
According to the program’s website (donorschoose.org), teachers across the country have requested – and received - digital cameras, SD cards, art supplies, books, funding for educational field trips, sports equipment and more.
Some unusual requests coming in from across the nation include LEGO robot kits, wobble chairs for children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, carpets for classrooms and items for forming an in-school coffee shop to help disabled children learn how to handle money.
According to the website, donorschoose.org has been supporting teachers and students since 2000, with over 598,000 projects funded and over 15,053,200 students reached.
The online charity helps by allowing teachers to post needs, and then connects them with donors who may contribute any amount they wish.
When the project needs are filled, the program handles shipping and sends the donated items to the classrooms.
Often, corporations match the donations, said Langston Chapel Elementary School Principal Shawn Haralson.
The site “has been outstanding,” he said. “It makes it easy for people to contribute to public schools.”
After receiving the donations, teachers send back thank-you letters and photos of the donated items being used, and students learn lessons in communication by writing thank-you letters as well, he said.
According to the website, donorschoose.org “vets every classroom project request, purchases the materials and ship them directly to the school, provides photos of the projects taking place, and supplies a cost report showing how every dollar was spent.”
About 15 teachers in her school have had positive experiences with the site, DiNello said. “You can ask for anything. It is a true benefit to my classrooms.”
Mill Creek Elementary School teachers Michelle Rivera and Valerie McLaughlin also praised the site.
Rivera, who operates the school’s computer lab, said she had a need for new headphones because students using them “chewed them up,” making the cords frayed. A request for new headphones was filled in short time.
The need for headphones was important, as “most students require audio help” in learning, she said.
McLaughlin, a kindergarten teacher, needed a table to help teach reading fundamentals. Trying to reach students sitting at rectangular tables was difficult, but when she saw a horseshoe shaped table, she knew that was the solution.
With the donated table, she has easy access to all her students at once. “I’m amazed. I didn’t really know what to expect” from the program, she sad. “I was impressed at how quickly it was funded.”
Getting started is easy, Rivera said. “They have a list of vendors” and teachers need only to list their needs and wait for the request to be filled.
For more information, access Internet website www.donorschoose.org.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.