ORLANDO, Florida. – With the help of Disney volunteers, the Central Florida nonprofit A Gift for Teaching has surprised its 350,000th teacher buyer.
William Torres, a math teacher at University High School in Orlando, said he was not provided with all the items needed throughout the school year.
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“Sometimes what you really need you don’t have, and what you want you don’t have. But on the other side, we have a store like this,” the veteran teacher said.
Torres told News 6 he has been receiving some of those missing supplies from the nonprofit since 1999.
“For math for example, they have rules, sometimes they have calculators,” he said.
Torres, a father of three, said every day he sees students coming to class without essentials and has to dip into his own pockets to ensure his students are prepared.
“Right now, the national average is about $1,000 a year that teachers spend of their own money,” said Angela García, vice president of development and marketing. “It may be difficult for them to do this, but they want to support their students and make sure everyone has equal access to the same learning materials.”
In 1998, A Gift for Teaching opened in Orlando and welcomed 84 teachers from Orange County public schools to shop for free.
“Recently, a teacher told us how much access to school supplies makes the difference between success and failure, and having those supplies is really what allows them to come away with the knowledge and access to succeed at school,” García recalled.
The organization was founded by community philanthropist Gary Landwirth, and since its inception, the nonprofit has opened two teacher supply stores available in Orange and Osceola counties that offer all kinds of items teachers need to make their students’ school year a success.
For Torres, it’s a passion he hopes to pursue until he retires.
“I always said it would be the last thing I would do with my life and that’s what I did,” Torres said.
The celebration also marked another milestone for the nonprofit organization. Since its inception, A Gift for Teaching said it has distributed more than $150 million worth of school supplies to more than 300 public schools in Orange and Osceola counties.
To learn more about A Gift for Teaching or to make a donation, visit the group’s website.
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