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Volunteers at the Teacher's Desk help fulfill Pancho Billa's last wish

10,000 students in need to get backpacks, supplies
Posted at 6:26 PM, May 29, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Forty volunteers were the busiest of bees at the Teacher's Desk in Buffalo on Wednesday, as they worked to help fulfill Ezra Castro's last wish.

Before Castro, better known as Pancho Billa, passed away after a battle with stage four cancer a few weeks ago, he wanted to make sure kids in need got backpacks and school supplies.

"He didn't want flowers he wanted school supplies, and that's a legacy that we're so thrilled to be a part of," said John Mika, Director of the Teacher's Desk.

The Teacher's Desk provides teachers with supplies for their classrooms, for free. It's received $100,000 in donations for Panchospacks.

That means 10,000 backpacks are going to 10,000 students in need, both in Buffalo and in Texas.

From 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, volunteers were busy pre-packing.

Volunteers packed pens, pencils, markers, sticky notes and note pads, and put them into one sealed package so that they're neatly organized when students receive them.

Out of the 10,000 backpacks, 4,500 of them will go to students on need in Ezra's hometown of El Paso, Texas.

The remaining five to six thousand backpacks will be distributed to the 250 schools that benefit from the Teacher's Desk here locally.

Carol Bartlett is a retired teacher who volunteers. She said she knows first hand what it's like to have students in need.

"Teacher's were constantly using their own money to buy supplies for students and the school had to fundraise and scramble to find things for kids in need," she said.

Bartlett said it's fulfilling to be able to give back and also help honor Pancho Billa's last wish.

"I realized what a cool way it is for somebody to pay it forward after they're gone to do something like this. And it's just really exciting to be here and be involved in it," she said.

"I never met him, but I knew he was a brave man - that word came up a thousand times - and he was a kind man," said Mika.

The Teacher's Desk in going to need 250 volunteers on June 10 at New Era field from 2 p.m. to 5pm to help pack up the 4,500 backpacks going to Texas.

If you are interested, you can sign up by emailing