Local groups organize a pop-up shop with free school supplies for teachers

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Educators, volunteers and organizers beat the heat Thursday afternoon at a pop-up store at Ramsey Middle School offering free school supplies to Fort Smith teachers.

The event stems from a partnership between OG&E and the United Way of Fort Smith, to host a Feed the Children Teacher pop-up store.

“We are delighted to help these teachers in any way, for a small fee,” said Willie Edwards, director of community partner safety and assessment at Feed the Children.

The event is an opportunity to give educators free supplies so they don’t have to reach out of pocket, Edwards said. Everything from three-ring notebooks and coloring books to crayons and hand sanitizer was available.

There are seven pop-up stores featured by OG&E, with the one in Fort Smith and the others in Oklahoma, said Garret Houck, OGE community relations coordinator for Arkansas.

The event is new to Arkansas, but has been happening in Oklahoma for a few years, Houck said. The events are an opportunity to help teachers, as well as share information about energy efficiency in classrooms and student homes.

“We’re just trying to get them as many supplies as possible,” Edwards said.

Local educators browse children's books at the Feed the Children Teacher pop-up store on August 5.

For teachers in the city, getting the free supplies is like a vacation of its own, said Kimberly Soto, physical education and health teacher at Fairview Elementary.

“It really is like Christmas,” Soto said.

Being the recipient of things was a different feeling, said Nicki Turner, library media specialist for Fairview Elementary. The free supplies are a great gift for teachers who are so used to spending money out of pocket to keep their classrooms running, Turner said.

“We don’t usually take,” Turner said. “It was a new experience.”

The pop-up store also provided an opportunity for educators to grab items they need in the classroom, as well as labels or copy paper, Soto said. Both Soto and Turner stocked up on school supplies they can’t wait for the kids to see.

“It’s such a blessing and our kids are going to be so excited,” Soto said.

There will be another Feed the Children Teacher pop-up store in coordination with OG&E and United Way from 1-4 p.m. Friday at the Donald W. Reynolds Center in Poteau, Oklahoma.

“He’s just trying to help Fort Smith, the river valley, as a whole,” Houck said. “(We are) delighted to be here.”

Volunteers from OG&E and United Way distribute school supplies to educators in Fort Smith Aug. 5 at the Feed the Children Teacher pop-up store.

Seeing the community supporting teachers and helping them was heartwarming, said Howard Elementary School teacher Penni Templeton.

“It’s amazing,” Templeton said. “It’s really heartfelt because we take so many of these things out of pocket to buy.”

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