The Athens Teacher Reuse Store off of College Avenue is the place to be for local public, private and homeschool educators needing classroom supplies in Clarke, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties. Everything is free, and the only form of payment required is a document, like a teacher ID, verifying your teaching status. Now, that service is expanding beyond educators.

Lisa Tonn, a third-grade teacher at Whit Davis Elementary School shopping at the Teacher Reuse Store, detailed how the pandemic has made it where students can’t safely share resources. So, she has to now supply enough materials for every student to have their own, and it can create a financial strain when forced to come out of their own pockets.

Saving Money and the Planet

$459 is the average amount teachers take out of their own pockets and put into their classrooms every school year. The pandemic has demanded even more.

“We do have a set-aside deduction on our income taxes, but my husband teases me all the time that I spend that in August, so that’s already gone.”Lisa Tonn

The Reuse Store serves as a solution for Tonn and local homeschool teacher Samantha Van Cleave. Both educators have been able to provide for their students thanks to the free resources available and love the environmental impact of repurposing these donated items.

“The idea in itself is fantastic,” said Van Cleave, who moved to the area last year. “We don’t have anything like this where I’m from. I’d much rather be able to reuse this stuff and help other teachers out by donating rather than just throwing stuff away.”

How to Join In

 Why It’s Newsworthy: For years, the store has only been open to these groups. Now, the store will also welcome creatives such as artists, nonprofits, students, religious organizations, daycare facilities, after — school programs, hospitals and teachers outside the community on the first Wednesday of every month. Pre-registration is required for the monthly event, and the sign-up link can be found here.  

 

The Athens Teacher Reuse Store now holds open creative days on the first Wednesday of every month. Listed above is who qualifies. (Graphic Courtesy/Abigail West)

“We’ve got a lot of cool things that could be used in creative projects and for whatever reason teachers don’t need,” said Abigail West, the Teacher Reuse Store Coordinator.

“We’re hoping to connect with more people to move some of those materials. I’m an artist, and I work with reclaimed materials. So, I really believe some of these things can get in the hands of other creatives and be put to cool use.”Abigail West

How Can I Help?

The store is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2-6:30 p.m., and donations are accepted from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with no appointment required. 

If you’re worried about bringing in materials that might not be used or accepted, there is no need to stress. Items brought into West that can’t be placed on her shelves at the Teacher Reuse store will be properly disposed of a couple garage doors down in the Center for Hard-To-Recycle Materials (CHaRM). The two initiatives share a Warehouse building at 1005 College Avenue in Athens. 

This way, educators and, now, creatives can get the materials they need for their classroom or projects free of charge while also helping the environment by reusing and repurposing materials that would have been destined for the landfill if not brought to the facility. 

Post-pandemic, West hopes to put her artistic skills to use by further expanding the program with hands-on project classes and teaching new and creative ideas to reuse anything from empty gift cards to old political posters.

To learn about upcoming events or find out what is new on the shelves, you can check out the Athens Area Teacher Reuse Store Facebook page or email reuse@accgov.com to sign up for regular inventory updates. For more information, check out the video below.

Lauren Swenson is a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in communication studies, and earning certificates in public affairs communications and leadership at the University of Georgia.

 

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