One of the first things Jo Ann Hebron Borden noticed when she took over as principal of Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School this summer was the lack of supplies.
The supply closet was bare, and teachers told Borden they usually had to buy paper and other classroom necessities on their own.
Knowing that there was no time to order items through the central administration, Borden decided to seek help elsewhere. "I wanted to make sure the teachers would be able to teach," she said.
The principal struck gold on her first attempt.
On the first day of school, the staff and 450 pupils of this school west of Bolton Hill assembled outdoors as two trucks pulled up.
The trucks were filled with pens, rulers, notebooks, glue, cases of paper, and a new refrigerator and copy machine for the teachers lounge. The supplies, worth about $10,000, were a gift from a local businessman whose mother had taught at the school for 20 years.
Borden, who had not known what to expect, said she was overwhelmed by the sight of the trucks.
About a week into her tenure, the freshman principal had met a former Eutaw-Marshburn teacher and told her about the school's plight.
Darlene Stewart, who retired in 2001 after teaching for 42 years in Philadelphia and Baltimore, went straight to her son.
"My mother called me in tears, and obviously that gets a son very worked up," said Eric C. Stewart, a city resident who runs Emortgage Solutions, a mortgage brokerage firm in Pikesville.
Eric Stewart, 39, invited Borden to meet him in his office, and they talked for two hours. On her next visit, the principal brought him a wish list.
The businessman's first action was to bring teachers and pupils what they needed on that first day. Since then, he has continued to be a friend to the school.
At the principal's request, he organized a career day this month to give pupils an opportunity to talk to a police detective, an insurance agent, a postmaster and then-City Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh.
Stewart, who is a football fan, also has pledged to donate $100 to the school for every touchdown the Ravens make. He plans to present the money at the end of the season.
"Nothing makes your day better than when 450 students make handmade cards to thank you," said Stewart, who said he has made a long-term commitment to Eutaw-Marshburn.
On a recent spirit day, pupils and staff members dressed in black and white - the colors of Stewart's company logo - to show their appreciation.
A graduate of city schools, Stewart said he wanted to help because he feels society does not appreciate teachers enough.
Shanekwa Winfield, a third-grade teacher, said Stewart's involvement has boosted morale among the staff.
"The whole year just got off to a good start," Winfield said. "When we have what we need, we can give the children what they need."