ORANGE PARK – The Clay County Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Clay Education Foundation and Community First Credit Union, held a drive-thru teacher appreciation event Monday at Orange …
ORANGE PARK – The Clay County Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the Clay Education Foundation and Community First Credit Union, held a drive-thru teacher appreciation event Monday at Orange Park Mall. Teachers throughout the county arrived to receive free bags of classroom supplies they will use during the upcoming school year.
Many were at the event, including Clay Chamber president Wendell Chindra, members of the Clay Education Foundation, Community First credit union staff and members of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
Following the pickup from the Clay Education foundation, there was another bag giveaway by the sheriff’s office at a smaller tent positioned further in the parking lot.
“This event here is the teach appreciation drive-through. It’s a collaborative effort between the Clay Education Foundation and the Clay Chamber Foundation,” said Makayla Buchanan, Executive Director of the Clay Education Foundation. “We have business sponsors like the Bailey Group and the Community First Credit Union who are out here, who are just here to give school supplies away to about 860 teachers today from Clay County. Why’s it important? Well, we know every single year that teachers spend over $500 on their classroom and school supplies, so we’re just trying to alleviate that burden, especially in the middle of COVID .”
Vehicles snaked around the parking lot outside of JC Penney as teachers pulled up to get their much-needed supplies. Volunteers directed traffic and checked off the names of the pre-registered educators.
The bags included many items, some of the most critical being hand sanitizers and masks, which will be at a premium as students return to the classroom on Aug. 25.
Teachers, much like parents and students, are afraid of the unknown, according to Buchanan.
“They don’t know what it’s going to be like,” she said. “You’ve got distance learning, you’ve got brick and mortar option, so we’re really going to see what that looks like on day one. Some of the general concerns are the same; just making sure their kids have everything they need on day one and that they come prepared.”
In total, about 900 supply bags were onsite (not including those being given away by the sheriff’s office). Nearly half of the bags were earmarked for elementary teachers, with the other half set for middle and high school.
“Every bag that we’re handing away is approximately $100 worth of school supplies,” Buchanan said. “Helping them out…a lot of shelves aren’t stocked right now with hand sanitizer, wipes, a lot of that stuff and so through our partners at Office Depot, Office Max, and some others, we were able to get access to that so all of these teachers here today were able to get those things and ensure that their kids are safe and have access to those materials they otherwise may have not had.”
The physical prep for the event, mostly took place on Friday afternoon, when members of the education foundation spent nearly seven hours packing the bags. Workers were assembled at stations, and a makeshift assembly line was formed to get the bags completed and out the door.
“Doing the right thing for the right reasons,” said Chindra when asked about his feelings regarding the event. “Teachers will be on our front line [against COVID-19] now. We need to take care of them.”
Buchanan was also in a great mood about the giveaway. “I love it,” she said. “This is my favorite event of the year other than the teacher of the year event that we get the opportunity to put on. Seeing the teachers’ faces, the excitement, just how thankful they are in general, that folks in the community are out here doing this, I think it means a whole lot to them. Both my parents are educators in Clay County, so it means a whole lot to me.”
This school year more than any other in recent memory, it means a whole lot to the teachers as well.