‘It’s such a great relief’: Local union donates free school supplies to teachers and students in need


To support teachers who often have to pay for school supplies out of pocket, Iron Workers Local 7 handed out bags of free supplies to needy families and educators at the union hall in South Boston on Saturday.

“We have a lot of bags here. They can take four or five bags, whatever they need,” said Marquis Meca, a Local 7 ironworker who helped organize the event. “We just want to make sure the kids are taken care of.”

From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., cars pulled up in the union hall parking lot and loaded their trunks with bags of pencils, markers, glue sticks – everything the students need to finish the year, Meca said.

The bags were made with every K-12 year in mind. Some were stuffed with colorful paints and art supplies for elementary school students; others were filled with pens and high school notebooks.

Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said classrooms are running out of many supplies in the middle of the school year — supplies that teachers can spend thousands of dollars of their own money each year to buy or replace, she said.

“Teachers are constantly paying for things out of pocket because you can’t rely on supplies necessarily being there when you need them,” Tang said. “Or if you’re doing extra projects, you often have to go out and buy more supplies.”

Elizabeth Meca puts notebooks into bags during Saturday’s school supply event. Everything from pencils to notebooks was packed in dozens of bags to be picked up at the Iron Workers union hall in South Boston.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Teachers also buy items that go beyond what students use in class, such as coats, gloves and hats, Tang said.

Educators used their own money to set up care packages for students during the pandemic, or to buy better routers and computer monitors when schools were in full isolation, Tang said. Some even helped their students’ families set up Wi-Fi for online learning, she said.

“These have been incredibly difficult school years for educators and every little bit, every little effort helps,” Tang said.

Frank Murray, another Local 7 ironworker who helped organize the event, said the union received about $5,000 worth of school supplies through donations from members of Local 7, the Boston Building Trades Council , 617 Media, various union halls and other members of the community.

“As members of the union, we want to make sure we maintain a presence in the community,” Murray said. “Kids being the future, it’s great to give back to them.”

This is the second year that the union has organized this campaign. It was launched to support teachers and families who needed supplies for virtual learning during the pandemic, but is now an event the union will continue to hold, Meca said.

“Now that we’ve returned to in-person learning, teachers and parents have come here to get supplies to use in person,” Murray said.

Shirley Chin came from Chinatown to collect groceries for her 9-year-old son, Logan. Chin said that since she is currently between jobs, the event was a big help.

“It’s such a great relief. Just knowing that there are people here in the community who are helping and thinking of others at this time of year, and not just at the start of the year, is great,” Chin said.

Meca’s 8-year-old daughter Alivia helped pack the bags for Saturday’s event. As a second-grader at Roslindale, she sees first-hand the hard work of her own teachers in her classroom.

“My teachers are super nice, helpful and understanding,” Alivia said.

Alivia Meca, 8, loads pencils into bags at the Iron Workers Local 7 school supply drive in South Boston on Saturday. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Caroline Enos can be reached at caroline.enos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.

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