The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the doors at 'Treasures 4 Teachers' for six weeks. The teacher discounted store has been open for weeks now and according to the owner, the store is slowly getting busier as teachers are starting to head back into the classroom.
"We have been slowly coming back," says Barb Blalock, the founder of the teacher discounted supply store. Blalock founded the non-profit roughly 15 years ago, specifically to support teachers of all schools, but in specific those who serve low-income communities.
"The parents barely have money to pay rent and this (supplies) is not an essential thing for them, it's not a necessity," says Maribel Velez, a HeadStart caseworker in the Roosevelt School District who brought teacher Veronica Zavala to 'Treasures 4 Teachers' for the first time.
"I paid my membership because I know I will be coming back for more. I found these pencils that are perfect for the little kids that I teach," says Zavala.
The store is open to members-only who pay a $35 yearly fee. Access to the store gives it's 5,000 members access to free materials and deeply discounted items that would otherwise be too expensive for some teachers to purchase.
"Here it's easy for me to get a set of 30 to 40 books for under $5 to $10. [Reporter]Otherwise, those books can be pricey? Yes, I can spend between $100 to $200," says Tawanna Erving, a 2nd-grade teacher at the Academy of Math and Science, Camelback campus.
Blalock founded 'Treasures 4 Teachers' 15 years ago and says the pandemic has caused her non-profit hardships, but thankfully, she's managed to keep the doors open. Earlier this year, her staff went from 21 employees to 12. She also says some volunteers have had to cease their efforts given the COVID-19 risks because many of the volunteers are retired teachers, in their late 50s and 60s.
Blalock believes now more than ever, 'Treasures 4 Teachers' is serving its purpose of getting teachers help with classroom supplies and materials.
"Kids are no longer sharing any materials, so some of these teachers are coming in to purchase individual sets of supplies for their children," adds Blalock.
'Treasures 4 Teachers' relies solely on donations from individuals and companies alike. The donations can be made in the form of supplies or monetary.
"Some of the monetary donations go towards paying the teacher's membership fees. I don't like for any teacher to not be able to get supplies, so that's how those donations help," says Blalock.
To donate, visit treasures4teachers.org