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

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Mark Peterman

She and Richard sat down, crunched some numbers and decided that if they sold their house, put the money in savings and moved to a rental, they could make it as a one-income family. The girls were enthusiastic about the plan. "How many kids can say their moms are majorly passionate about what they're doing?" says Katie.

Buoyed by her family's support, Barbara resolved to move operations out of her garage. She knew of a private school nearby with a 4,000-square-foot space sitting empty. When asked, they let her use it for a year, rent-free, until it was sold. At that point, Barbara put an ad on Craigslist for discounted space and found a facility in the industrial park where Treasures 4 Teachers is currently located. Her landlord charges only 25 cents a square foot instead of the usual 90 cents that a for-profit business pays.

To cover the rent and other expenses such as insurance and building maintenance, Barbara charges a $35 annual membership fee and relies on cash donations from area businesses and her board of directors to make up the rest. She also asks shoppers to donate $5 for each bagful, and they can take as many as they want at every visit.

Treasures 4 Teachers doesn't have full-time paid staffers, although Barbara recently hired several part-time temps. She and 30 volunteers (including some from the same companies that donate surplus goods) do most of the sorting and organizing. Eventually, she'd like to draw a salary and also have a permanent staff. For now, though, the Blalocks sold their house and are managing on Richard's salary. "We used to have big bedrooms, a family room and a pool," says Katie, who volunteers full-time at Treasures 4 Teachers every summer. "Now we just have a little backyard, and my room is really small. Amber mostly lives in Chicago, but when she comes home to visit we have to share a room. We don't mind, though. We're proud of our mom."