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PRSA Tampa Bay Celebrates United Way's Day of Caring

Our team: (bottom row, from left) Marsha Strickhouser, Paula MacDonald, Jennifer Dunn; (top row, from left) Noelle Fox, Shai Johnson, Jessica Butzier, Betty Carlin, Joseph Priest and Kathlyn Fitzpatrick.

 

By Jessica Butzier and Joseph Priest

It included three hours, nine people, and thousands of markers, but the number of school children’s lives it will touch is countless.

On Oct. 6, our chapter’s Public Service Committee organized our participation in the United Way’s “Day of Caring.” This is an annual event by the United Way Suncoast chapter that recruits volunteer teams from companies and organizations across Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota and DeSoto counties to help local charities for half of a day. This year, approximately 2,100 volunteers from more than 65 local companies were mobilized to tackle some 150 projects at local social service agencies, schools and community organizations.

Our Day of Caring team included nine people who took off from work to contribute to the Hillsborough Education Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping school children have the basic tools for learning by connecting the community's surplus supplies and merchandise with teachers and school children in need, at no cost.  

Our project was to sort a large donation of markers and package them to help the Foundation’s Teaching Tools Store, which provides free school supplies to economically disadvantaged students attending Hillsborough County Public Schools designated as Title I, a federal designation that signifies that 60 percent or more of the students in the school qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program. In Hillsborough County, 62 percent of the 266 public and charter schools (164) are deemed Title I, and the store currently serves 140 of them.

Members of our team (right) in action at the Hillsborough Education Foundation. 

 

Paula MacDonald and Jennifer Dunn help package markers. 

The store is staffed by a group of volunteers who operate teacher check-in and checkout processes, stock shelves and sort donations. Teachers shop monthly and collect an average $200 or more in free supplies to bring back to their classrooms. The store is open throughout the school year so a teacher can acquire nearly $2,000 in free school supplies throughout the school year.

Although we only had a few hours to contribute, our team had an amazingly rewarding experience. We were able to package thousands of markers for the store and build relationships with several leaders of the Foundation and learn more about their mission. Our experience became especially rewarding after finding out that the store provides an incredible $3 million-plus in free school supplies annually to over 68,000 students, and since 2002 it has provided over $22 million in free school supplies.

The Teaching Tools Store

 

The Public Service Committee is working on other ideas to keep our chapter involved in the community, so stay tuned, right here at the PRSA Tampa Bay website, for more ways you can help serve. And if you have any suggestions, let us know at jpajak@tampaedc.com and joseph.priest@syniverse.com

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