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Lending teachers a helping hand so students are better equipped in classrooms

"We all need encouragement. We all need to know that God has a good purpose for our lives."
The Teacher's Desk
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 18:24:41-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Former teacher and substitute teacher, John Mika, knows first-hand the struggles of a teacher and their lack of classroom supplies.

"We all need encouragement. We all need to know that God has a good purpose for our lives. That's why I do The Teacher's Desk; to encourage teachers to help kids and to allow our incredible 260 volunteers to have purpose," The Teacher's Desk director, John Mike said.

The former Willamsville Schools sub created The Teacher's Desk", in October 2011.

Eleven years later, the nonprofit is going strong having helped a total more than 50,000 teachers with its curbside shopping.

"I saw the difference in supplies, what gets had in the suburbs and what they didn't have in the city schools. I had three kids in a classroom that had pencils. The one kid that had the paper, everybody was on him to get it," Mike said.

The nonprofit has given away $7.5 million in school supplies a year, including 20,000 pencils a week and 500,000 pens a year.

"It'll be curbside parking in the parking lot, and every teacher will get $1,000 as they pull up, they sign in. We load them. They are in and out in five minutes or less with over $1,000 in items plus books," he added.

The warehouse, which was donated to the nonprofit, will reopen for the new school year on Monday, August 15.

More than 1,000 teachers have signed up but there are still about 1,500 spots available from August through December 2022.

Curbside shopping takes place during the week from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Indoor shopping takes place on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Teachers from Salamanca, Dunkirk, Fredonia and Rochester usually come during this time, because it is not feasible for them during the week.

"They don't have to do it. They do it because they love their children," Mika added.

School supplies from this warehouse have traveled beyond Western New York.

Thanks to a partnership with Pancho Packs, which fills backpacks with $100 worth of school supplies, 2,000 backpacks have gone to Ukraine, 700 to Sierra Leone and 300 to the Island of Tonga.

"Who would have thought that his backpacks would be in Tonga? Every backpack has his likeness on it and a little story on there about what he wanted, what he desired," he said.

Each year, supplies also go to Dallas and El Paso, which is where the late Ezra Castro, the creator of the Packs, has ties to.

School supplies can also be taken to community groups, churches and nonprofits.

"Lots of schools take product from The Teacher's Desk and take it back to their sites and package product for us and they bring it back. We go through a lot of products and we need a ton of help. Anybody who wants to help out, that's the best way to do it," he said.

Those who would like to volunteer can do so by going to the The Teacher's Desk's website.

Anyone can come when you can and leave when you must between the 9 a.m. and noon Mondays through Thursdays, and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30-am.

Additionally, nonprofits, church groups and schools are welcome to take free Lysol wipes, upon request at the nonprofit.

In the Buffalo Strong section of wkbw.com, a list can be found with contact information for more than a dozen organizations in the city looking for volunteers to 'get involved.'