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

Barbara Blalock of Treasures for Teachers
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Mark Peterman

Richard is as supportive as he was at the beginning. Barbara is convinced that's because he, like the girls, spends a lot of time working for the organization. "All you have to do is listen to the teachers talk to one another while they're shopping to get the full impact of what we're accomplishing," she says. "I remember one who was so grateful just for a box of erasers. Her students didn't have any, and they couldn't correct their spelling."

She hears stories like that all the time. For example, Gina Ucci, a 46-year-old first grade teacher at Eugene Field Elementary in Mesa, Arizona, stocks up every fall on three-ring binders and sheet protectors so each child in her class can create a memory book that showcases the year's artwork and writing. "If I had to pay retail prices," says Gina, "I could never afford to have the kids make these keepsakes."

Karen Hanisak, 56, has been frequenting Treasures 4 Teachers since she started working at a K-8 school in Tempe four years ago. "I can do so much more with my students," she says. "Last semester I created my own board games for math and literacy practice with materials I got there. The children actually look forward to using them for the extra work they need." She also recently picked up a pair of two-drawer filing cabinets for $5 each. "It's a 45-minute drive each way, but I make the trip at least every other week," Karen says. "I come not only for the great stuff but also because I get ideas from other teachers while I'm there."

There are even shoppers who travel from Flagstaff and Yuma, over three hours away. "We expect to have an affiliate open in that area and in Tucson by the end of the year," says Barbara. "We already have a board of directors in place, and we're researching a site." She's had so many inquiries from other states that her long-range goal is to establish multiple centers nationwide. "Just imagine that every child could have everything he or she needs in order to succeed," she says. "That's my ultimate dream."

Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.

UPDATE: Treasures 4 Teachers suffered a huge setback August 8, 2010 when heavy rains brought down the roof of their warehouse. "One of the volunteers heard a crack," says Barbara. "We were going to grab the computers, but when we heard a second crack, I said, 'We better run.'" Everyone got out safely, but three-quarters of the inventory was destroyed—a loss not covered by insurance—just as school was starting. "We've had so many offers of help," says Barbara. "Volunteers are actually delivering to teachers as requests come in. We're still in business!"