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Extra Credit: How One Mom Provides "Treasures 4 Teachers"

Barbara's next move was to put the word out to friends, family and community groups for donations. The result: Barbara received so much—paper, pencils, file holders, cardboard tubes from paper towels and other recyclable materials—that she had to turn the family's garage into a mini warehouse and draft her husband, Richard, 52, and the kids to help. Richard, who works days at the Safeway supermarket chain, unloaded pallets of materials. The girls organized donations and set up displays.

Within weeks they were ready to open. Hours of operation at first were Saturdays from 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. "We got the message out with a press release that landed us a radio interview and an article in the local paper," says Barbara. "As word spread and more teachers were showing up, we added more days."

But even after a few months the organization wasn't yet official. That's when Barbara met a woman who was about to retire and close her organization, which was similar to Barbara's except that it gave out new supplies. Barbara arranged to take over the name, Treasures 4 Teachers, then filed the paperwork to make her project a nonprofit. "This was a big step, but I felt I was ready," she says. "I had worked at Safeway for 13 years before the children were born, doing every job from cashier to stocker to office clerk and relief manager. I knew I could operate a warehouse-style business."

Richard backed her all the way, even though she wouldn't be drawing a salary from the venture anytime in the foreseeable future. They saw it as a side business that helped others. And Barbara was still employed by the Y. What they hadn't counted on, though, was that Barbara would face a serious lung infection. She put Treasures 4 Teachers on hold and used up her sick days at work. It was six months before she recovered. "At that point, the Y had no choice but to replace me," she says. By the end of 2006 she was ready to look for another job. "But in my heart I really wanted to give all my time to Treasures 4 Teachers,? she says. "School budgets had gotten terribly tight, so I knew there was real need."