Regular thrift shoppers have likely walked the aisles of a warehouse, dreaming of a specialty thrift store for their particular interests — a place to buy gently used sports equipment, or even pet toys and supplies, for instance.
While some of those options exist, one that is desperately needed is thrift stores for teachers.
In America, teachers spend an average of about $600-700 a year on classroom supplies with their own money, according to EdWeek.
If you think that number is staggering, in total, American teachers spend $1.6 billion on materials that their schools do not budget for each year.
While, of course, teachers should be provided with the necessary materials (and salaries) they need by their school administration or state governments, one organization in Arizona is working to “solve for x” in the meantime.
What is Treasures 4 Teachers?
Treasures 4 Teachers is a Tempe, Arizona-based nonprofit that offers its members access to a 12,000-square-foot creative reuse warehouse full of new and used low-cost supplies. While many of the supplies are at a low-cost, there is also a free and fill-a-bag section for teachers to explore.
Whether educators are looking for pens and pencils, art supplies, binders and notebooks, or even T-shirts from local schools, they can be accessed at a fraction of the cost of standard retailers.
Memberships for teachers cost $35 per year (a much lower cost than that average $500 out-of-pocket cost for school supplies). This includes access to the warehouse, free and low-cost professional development opportunities and resources, and even gifts from corporate donors.
“We are donation-based and take in reusable goods from the community to revitalize and redistribute to local educators for free or low cost,” a TikTok from T4T explains. “We serve traditional teachers, homeschools, tutors, scout leaders, or anyone else who actively works with students.”
While many teachers flock to the warehouse for staples like disinfectant spray and dry erase markers, they can also snag clean, recycled “trash” like egg cartons, plastic containers, tissue boxes, and loose writing utensils with no packaging.
These items can be used creatively in art or other learning projects without teachers going through the hassle of finding and collecting items on their own.
In addition, the organization has a T4T on Wheels program that delivers supplies to teachers in the area. According to AZ Central, T4T provides supplies to 4,500 teachers, reaching over 135,000 students.
The organization also has a traditional thrift shop that is open to the public and funds the work of providing teachers with school supplies.
The aptly-named T4T Thrift Shop gives 100% of its proceeds to the program, all while continuing the efforts of recycling and reusing goods in the community.
Chloe Calissi, with T4T, told KPNX News: “We make it our mission to make sure we provide equitable resources, learning opportunities, and just to make learning fun for all students, no matter [their] income.”
Header images courtesy of Treasures 4 Teachers