ELKHART – With a new school year just around the corner, teachers across Michiana are stocking up on supplies. But some teachers didn't spend a dime, all thanks to a special program in Elkhart.
It was big because many of those teachers have to pay for supplies out of their own pockets. Many get a stipend, but the program helps beyond that.
And there's more to it than just giving teachers free supplies.
Kate Fulnecky, a second grade teacher, can't wait to get back into the classroom.
"I'm excited I have a new grade this year, which is really exciting. It's one of my favorite," she said with a smile.
But before she picks up the grading pen again, she needs to stock up on a few things, which is why she's at the Teacher's Store.
"There was a girl today that was standing next to me, and it was her first time here, and she's like, ‘I feel like I'm stealing,’ and I said, ‘I completely understand,’" said Fulnecky.
That's because Fulnecky and the rest of the teachers are getting all these supplies free.
"At the end of the year, it could save a teacher probably $500, if not more," she said.
"We are trying to end the cycle of poverty through education. That's why it's so important. We love the teachers, but it's really about getting the product to the students so they can get a better education," said store director Darlene Anderson.
The store serves 47 school districts from Logansport to South Bend to Benton Harbor. 10,000 teachers come here once a month throughout the school year.
"It's kind of priceless," said Fulnecky. "I guess you could say, too, because you get to give these children a lot of things we normally wouldn't get."
At the end of Fulnecky's shopping trip, she had enough things to fill her cart.
"Coloring books, books I can have in my classroom... and just kind of other supplies like markers, highlighters, pencils, pens, sticky tabs, sticky notes we can use in the classroom," she said.
Those are things she needs to be ready for the first day of school.
The Teacher's Store is in its fourth year of operation. As of last year, it gave away $4.5 million dollars worth of supplies. Teachers are encouraged to take boxes of books. Anderson says they want kids reading as much as possible. The program only accepts public, Title 1 schools. Anderson says they're trying to reach students in the most need.
Teachers must be from a pre-approved school district. To find out if your district is approved, go to feedthechildren.org.