Four years ago, I retired from Orange County Public schools after working over three decades as a school psychologist and administrator. I became familiar with A Gift For Teaching during their grassroots foundation and beginning outreach to our district. As the organization grew I saw school after school benefit from the classroom supplies, books, art tools and even clothing provided to teachers for our students in need. The school district expanded beyond expectation and significant challenges of providing necessary classroom tools for each child emerged. However, A Gift For Teaching remained a steadfast partner to continue providing much more than basic supplies to our classrooms and diligently worked to address these needs. The staff at A Gift For Teaching have developed relationships and connections with school personnel at every level. They not only listen to teacher needs with open ears but also with open hearts.
The world of public education today is complex and it is easy to lose sight of the importance of meeting the basic needs of a child in a classroom. I have watched children enter schools on the first day of school with a plastic bag filled with broken crayons and pencils and seen their look of shame as classmates enter with newly purchased supplies. I have also seen those same children smile brightly with pride as teachers present them with a beautiful backpacks filled with lovely new supplies provided by A Gift For Teaching. Students' lives can be changed one backpack, one box of crayons and even one pencil at a time. The staff at A Gift For Teaching know this and work tirelessly to keep providing support to our teachers and students.
Since retiring, I have been privileged to volunteer with A Gift For Teaching and have seen their creativity and dedication as they pivot in their delivery model but not in their dedication to provide ongoing excellent services, I sincerely hope that you will recognize this wonderful organization and the its selfless staff members.
A Gift for Teaching is a nonprofit organization that works diligently to support public school teachers and their students. They do this by supplying teachers with more than just the basics for the classroom. The staff and volunteers supply many of the extras that teachers normally spend their own money on to make the classroom an inviting, comfortable, friendly and productive atmosphere for students. The store often supplies more than basic needs for students , more than just writing utensils, paper, notebooks, rulers, backpacks, etc. It also frequently has clothing for teachers to acquire for students in need and other basic life necessities. In addition, we have supplies that help teachers to do special arts and activities with their students, making school a fun place as well as an educational one. For the past 3 years I have worked in the store and at various locations around Orange County. In that time I have had the opportunity to speak with teachers and to hear the stories of how much the store and Pencil Boy have meant to them and to their students. A Gift for Teaching relies heavily on material and financial donations and volunteer support from the community. Many people who volunteer with their company or community group return to volunteer as individuals because the work is so rewarding! Every member of the staff is dedicated to serving the teaching community and the students to the best of their ability with smiles and cheerful attitudes. Teachers who come into the store always feel that they are welcome and know that everyone at the store is there to help in anyway possible.
Many things have changed with the advent of Covid-19 restrictions. Prior to the pandemic, teachers had 3 ways in which they could shop for items: in the store, on-line or at the Pencil Boy Truck in various locations around the county. However, this year, all of that has changed. shopping is restricted to on-line only at the moment. Teachers can go on-line and select items they need from a list of approximately 50. The lists are then printed and teams of volunteers pack them into bags and boxes. The teachers are notified when the items are ready for pick-up. When they arrive at the store, the items are brought to the car for curbside pick-up. The system seems to be working well and the teachers with whom the volunteers have spoken have been very pleased and excited that this option is available to them.
As a retired teacher of 42 years, I know how awesome and heart-warming it is to have such strong community support. Teachers often feel under-rated and under-valued. The staff and volunteers at A Gift for Teaching work very hard to let teachers know that the opposite is true!!!!
Thank you for this opportunity.
AGFT does an excellent job serving the students and teachers in and around Central Florida who need supplies. The organization provides these supplies at no cost to students and teachers in areas of need, so the students, their families and their teachers have one less worry. AGFT has been able to do this with an extremely cost effective model so donors know their money is being spent efficiently to assist these folks. Having supplies in hand, the success of these students in achieving educational goals is within their grasp, and we can watch them move forward to achieve great things!
Gift For Teaching is a great non-profit organization. I have been volunteering with them for more than 2 years. Each week I get to see first hand how much this organization helps our teachers. Every time we hand off boxes and bags of supplies to the teachers they always tell us how much this means to them and their students and they can’t thank us enough. When I first stated volunteering I was happy to see that it wasn’t just about getting teachers basic school supplies. It was also about hygiene and clothes and other necessities to help the students. All the volunteers here work as a team with the same goal; to help make life a little easier for the teachers. My friends and family in other states are impressed and jealous that their areas don’t have this. One friend in New Hampshire is looking in his township to see if they can emulate Gift For Teaching. A true compliment and testament to the work being done here.
I started volunteering with A Gift for Teaching as part of my employer's community outreach initiatives. What I did not realize when I joined the volunteer team for a one time event was that I would fall in love with the mission of this organization. Since that one time event with my employer, I've returned to A Gift for Teaching dozens of times to work with them as an individual.
This team is dedicated to reaching teachers wherever they are in order to help deliver the best, most equitable opportunities to help them and their students success. I have watched this organization fearlessly navigate the challenges of a global pandemic in an effort to make sure that as counties, parents, students, and communities ask more and more of our teachers, they never once forget that they are endlessly supported by A Gift for Teaching.
As a volunteer, I have always felt welcome and supported in my roles with A Gift for Teaching. I've always been able to watch first hand as the team works to best serve the community through online shopping and contactless delivery initiatives. I've never once questioned the impact I was having due to the transparency and communication--not only from the A Gift for Teaching Team, but also from our teachers in response to services and supplies provided.
It's been amazing to have the opportunity to be on the front lines of educator support and knowing that I am personally impacting, through my time with A Gift for Teaching, the ability of teachers and students across central Florida, and specifically in my home community of Orange County Public Schools, to have equitable access to success.
I work in student admissions with a local university and it’s such an amazing feeling to know students in our backyard have every chance to succeed in school. When we receive applications from local K-12 students, I know that every student had the tools available to get them to the point of applying for college. A Gift For Teaching sets sights high for all Central Florida students and nothing stops them from dreaming big.
I come from a family of teachers, and I know how hard they work to ensure their students have what they need to learn and achieve, including spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of their own pockets if necessary. For many low-income students, a good teacher is their lifeline. I was drawn to the mission of A Gift for Teaching more than 19 years ago and currently serving on the Board of Directors. It is a beautifully simple concept: collecting surplus items from individuals and businesses and distributing them to area teachers to help their students in need. Local teachers are able to “shop” for free for essential supplies like books, backpacks, paper, crayons and even new socks and underwear. As a result of COVID-19 and its economic impact on families throughout our community, the need is greater than ever before. And the amazing team at A Gift for Teaching continues to creatively, efficiently and effectively adjust its operations to bridge the gap. In fact, more than 95% of all financial contributions go directly toward supporting the more than 200,000 students they serve, and they are able to transform every dollar donated into $10 worth of school supplies that can be used to learn, dream, explore and succeed. It is an unparalleled return on investment in the future of our youth and our community.
Debbie Muse, APR
As immediate past Board Chair of AGFT, member of the board for over 7 years and a contributing partner to the organization for almost 20 years, I'm proud to share that AGFT's mission, operational excellence and success through community outreach and giving is every bit as exceptional as it seems to be. As a community partner for a number of years, I simply loved their dual mission of helping children and teachers in need while advancing sustainability initiatives that prevented waste from entering landfills by identifying creative uses for used, unused, unloved items to be repurposed into learning tools that teachers could share with their students. It was a pretty simple and humble mission to get behind, and I clearly saw how we could help.
Moving years ahead to joining the board, I quickly came to realize, through the professionally run board meetings and the thoughtful, deliberate and detailed board packages outlining operations, expenses, campaigns, initiatives, etc., that this was far more than a well-meaning organization...this team of staff and board members were every bit as dedicated and passionate about exceeding the goals and expectations they set for themselves as any startup would be - there was an enthusiasm and passion about every new initiative, every metric exceeded, every new partner. It was truly inspiring to see.
When you understand how few full time employees and how many volunteers that are engaged to make all of this work, you really begin to respect just how much effort and hard work goes into making AGFT successful in accomplishing it's mission. And when you think about just how much work it really is, you see clearly that it can only be accomplished by people with a heart and selfless drive for giving and helping others. Together they operate at an astounding +-96% efficiency rating, which means that 96% of all donated funds and the value of goods donated is provided to teachers and students, with just +-4% going to the overhead operations of the company.
Fast forward to my time as Board Chair…what stands out to me was how much help I had in that role. The very deliberate mentoring of the board chair by the immediate past board chair and the consistent communication and thoughtful scheduling done by the donor relations, community engagement, marketing and operations and finance teams allowed me to easily work events into my professional schedule. It was at this stage, too, that I really witnessed just how well respected (envied even) AGFT is in the community. The best known, well run and respected organizations in our community and around the country recognize the exceptional success of AGFT in serving those most in need in our communities and they know that their contributions will get to the people who need it the most.
About those who need it the most…#2 pencils. That is the most requested supply from teachers that their students need, but do not have with them when they start the school year/day. #2 pencils. When something so base is the top need, you know the need is so much greater, and therefore the opportunity to serve is that much more important and challenging. No one reading this needs to have their heartstrings tugged, you already know the powerful impact these gifts for learning have on children…it is profound, and the effect is far more than a ripple in a pond.
To accomplish their goals, year over year, AFGT has a core mission promise to innovate and seek to get ahead of the needs of the community. These innovative and evolving programs include: A Gift For Music (providing musical instruments, lessons, access to instructors, concerts and experiences), Pencil Boy Express (a mobile delivery service that holds teacher shop days at schools outside a 3 mile radius of the Free Store), Pencil Boy Online (online ordering service for deliveries across the school district) and GB3 (The Great Big Backpack Build, our yearly fundraising/supply campaign that builds tens of thousands of backpacks stuffed with requested supplies and delivers to schools across the network for distribution to kids at the start of the school year).
A Gift for Teaching and A Gift for Music are life changing organizations for the children who are the future of our communities. If you’re looking for an organization to support in Central Florida, or one that is a national leading example in the Kids In Need Foundation network, teaching and mentoring other community programs around the country, please consider AGFT as your partner. Thank you.
Partner | Office President
As a long-time Central Florida resident, I’ve seen our community grow significantly. Unfortunately, this includes an ever-growing number of students in need of school supplies, clothing, and even the occasional reward item or toy. I can’t imagine learning to do math without a pencil and eraser. Or how to read without books at home. I am proud to be a board member and long-time supporter of A Gift For Teaching (AGFT). This organization is committed to supporting both public school teachers and their students. Nothing is more important to our future!
Now, more than ever, the needs of our community are acute and growing. To meet this need, AGFT has demonstrated great flexibility to “pivot” from free store for teacher shopping to free store for curbside pickup! Central Florida teachers and students need our support now more than ever before. Providing the capability for teachers to order what they need on-line and then pick-up curbside is a great example of how AGFT innovates to fulfill their mission.
AGFT has also demonstrated an amazing ability to operate efficiently, keeping operating expenses at or below 5% of income over the last 20 years. Most for-profit companies would love to be this capable! AGFT is able to leverage every dollar donated into $10 of school supplies. This leverage enables AGFT to magnify the impact of all gifts in a very unique and productive way.
The need has never been greater. AGFT has adapted their operations to server our community. I hope you will join me in supporting Central Florida teachers and students in need when it matter most – now.
SVP, Information Technology
As the Chairman of the Board for A Gift for Teaching, I have seen first-hand what the needs are of our community for school supplies. Over 200,000 students in Orange County are at poverty level and get free lunch. These are the neediest youth as they are less likely to have the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. A Gift for Teaching provides teachers and students the school supplies they need to give all these students an equal opportunity to excel in school.
With today's pandemic environment, it becomes even more challenging to ensure that these needy youth get school supplies as now they need to have these supplies at school and at home with the blended learning approach to education today. A Gift for Teaching is doing a great job to distribute these school supplies and ensure they don't skip a beat!
I'm so proud of what A Gift for Teaching does to change lives in our community and build the confidence of our students. Join me in continuing to invest in the future workforce of our community.
Retired CHRO, Tupperware Brands and
Chair of Board, A Gift for Teaching
Many associate Orlando, Florida, with DISNEY WORLD. A GIFT FOR TEACHING (AGFT), in Orlando, FL, focuses on the teachers of over 10,000 school children who are homeless, and over 200,000 who can't afford school lunch daily. Last year alone, AGFT provided "shopping" at its free store to almost 6,000 central FL teachers! The teachers responded in huge ways, scooping up pencils, paper, markers, cleaning supplies. And their STUDENTS experienced those gifts by becoming more PREPARED, showing greater INTEREST, developing better SELF-ESTEEM.
The lessons that the teachers and their students learn, from AGFT, is that THEY ARE IMPORTANT.
I love this big-hearted group. It has found real ways to assist schools hit by hurricanes and recessions, and now the pandemic.
When teachers seek supplies for literacy and STEM instruction, or to assure classroom hygiene, they know they can come to the AGFT warehouse, OR ask for a visit from the Pencil Boy Express van, which will roll up to the school parking lot to open up shop. I have been a teacher in a Title I school, a teacher educator, and am now the Dean of the College of Community Innovation and Education at University of Central Florida. We grow great teachers at UCF, but the commitment of AGFT to the work and heart of teachers IS Florida SUNSHINE!