BALTIMORE (WMAR) - As summer comes to a close, students and teachers are getting ready for the upcoming school year. But this can create extra financial stress to get all the supplies needed to start the school year off right. That's where the Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap comes in.
"I love coming in," Baltimore City teacher Camille Bowden said.
A haven for teachers, supplies everywhere. Former Baltimore City school teacher Melissa Badeker started it to reduce the burden on teachers who have to buy their own supplies.
"Students can’t learn if they don’t have the materials that they need and that’s why we are here," Badeker said.
A federal Department of Education survey found 94% of public school teachers across the country spent their own money on supplies. The average cost? Almost $500.
"I personally spent over $1,000 every year and I know a lot of teachers who do too," Badeker said.
She also saw how many supplies went unused. The swap connects the two. They take donations from schools, teachers and families and they open twice a week to let teachers and child care providers shop for free.
"I’m a Pre-K teacher and they tend to be kind of hard on their materials so I have to replace them often. I can’t buy cheap stuff and what I like about the swap is that the materials are good quality," Bowden said.
The swap is free for first time visitors. After that, you can pay $45 to be a member for a year. That gets you unlimited access to the store during its hours on Thursdays and Saturdays.
"We have people that get emotional, like, 'oh my gosh ,you just don’t understand the burden that you just released off of me,' and that makes me and Melissa, our hearts glad. Like wow that we are able to have this kind of affect on people," volunteer Kiyawna West said.
In 2015, the swap's first year open, they distributed almost $26,000 in supplies. This year, they are at $190,000 and counting. And it's not just teaching materials.
"There’s a lot of low income families in Baltimore City who can’t afford the school supplies on the school supply list so when teachers comes to the Teacher Supply Swap, they’re able to get supplies not only for their classrooms and teaching, but they are able to get supplies for their students as well," Badeker said.
"I’m a single parent so I know what the struggle can be like if you may not have the funds to be financially stable to buy supplies," West said.
They are constantly looking for donations. You can donate new or used supplies 24/7 at a shed outside the store
"The number one request we get is for pencils. We really need anything consumable, the things that the students go through quickly," Badeker said.
They are located a few blocks from the Woodberry Light Rail station, at 1794 Union Ave.