Gateway teachers reach out to community with family store
There's nothing taboo about perusing for free clothes and other necessities at Moss Side Middle School, fifth-grade teacher Marcie Crow said.
Teachers who helped spearhead a donation center last winter said they want families to feel at home when they arrive at the Gateway School District building, through a discreet rear entrance.
“If this is pleasant and if it's positive, that feeling of ‘I'm going to a thrift store,' isn't there,” Crow said.
“When people come in, it's like a big party. We have our music on, and a lot of the people know each other now.”
Teachers' Treasures is a teacher-initiated, teacher-run project that provides clothes, shoes and toys for infants, children and adults during the school year.
Gateway Superintendent Nina Zetty approved the Teacher's Treasures project last year.
“(Administrators) are forever grateful to the staff who initiated and continue to support and run this program,” Zetty said.
Gateway Assistant Superintendent Bill Short said recently that one of the challenges administrators face now is the number of students whose families receive financial assistance from the government.
While Gateway enrollment dropped from 4,308 to 3,645 between 2005 and 2013, the number of students who receive a free or reduced-price lunch increased by 387, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.
In 2013, 1,502 Gateway students received free or reduced-price lunches, which are funded by the federal government.
Banquet tables stacked with gently worn sweaters and jeans and racks of formal wear and shoes — all donated by teachers and their families — filled the classroom last week as organizers prepared for the upcoming school year.
The center will open to the public once a week, beginning with an Aug. 14 open house.
Teachers do not require that visitors provide government or financial documents before accepting donations, Crow said.
Another program instituted under Zetty's leadership is the sharing table at each Gateway school buildings. Students can place unopened, sealed cafeteria food items on the table for other students who might still be hungry.
Gateway spokeswoman Cara Zanella said she knows the importance of donation programs at Gateway, based in part on tattered coats she's seen over the years in the buildings.
Teachers' Treasures “is the kind of thing that helps us address the things that we see, that people don't always think about,” Zanella said.
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-871-2369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.