At first glance, Wicomico Street in Baltimore City looks like any other industrial area with many warehouses and big trucks. However, teachers, parents, daycare providers and home-schooling families find their way to the warehouse at 1224 Wicomico Street on Thursdays and Saturdays for free classroom supplies to faciltate the learning process.
The Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap (BTSS) accepts educational, art and office supplies that may otherwise be tossed in a dumpster or sit unused in some dusty storage room. The nonprofit reduces financial pressure for teachers who often spend their own money to purchase school supplies and items ranging from new pencils, chalk and notebook paper to repurposed bulletin board decorations, art supplies and storage containers. Parents are also allowed access to school supplies.
Two former teachers, Melissa Badeker and Kathleen Williams founded Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap in July 2014. The nonprofit has made great strides since then.
BTSS is gearing up to hit the road to bring school supplies directly to schools in Baltimore, thanks to the donation of a box truck by the Baltimore-based business Len The Plumber.
Badeker says that after receiving feedback from teachers, many were unable to come to BTSS due to time restraints, lack of transportation, or because of not knowing which items were in stock.
“So to address that, we wanted to bring the Swap to the teachers. That’s where the idea for the (BTSS) Supply Mobile came about and Len The Plumber donated a box truck to us,” Badeker said. “We’re in the process of retrofitting it with shelving, so that we can stock it with supplies and getting the exterior done. Once that is complete, we’re going to offer it up to Baltimore City (Public) Schools. Anyone who wants to request the Supply Mobile to come to their school can fill out an application. We’ll look at it and prioritize based on the need and then we’ll set a time to bring the truck to them. Teachers can get on the truck [and] shop for what they need.”
Badeker says that trial runs for the new service begins in December this year; and she anticipates that the Supply Mobile will be up and running full-time by January of 2018. The goal is to visit four schools each week in two-hour time slots. Appointments will be scheduled during break time for teachers and after school hours.
Liz Miller, a teaching artist living in Baltimore is a BTSS member and Design Committee volunteer who helped to paint the Supply Mobile. She attended the unveiling of the new vehicle along with fellow Swap supporters, Badeker, and Williams, on Saturday, November 4, 2017.
“I use the Swap as a teacher,” Miller said, while looking at the side of the parked truck adorned with painted images of scissors and glue. “I’m really excited about the Swap, and it’s the kind of place that I want to support.”
Miller says that coming to the Swap to get items such as staplers means that Access Art’s program budget can be put to use to do other amazing things for her students who attend the after school program, which is located in Edmondson Village.
More people like Miller have been connecting with BTSS after the nonprofit was featured in an online web-series called “Returning the Favor” in October. Mike Rowe, host of the show travels the country highlighting remarkable people who are making a difference in their communities. With the help of Zoltan Design Co., a full-service interior design firm, the Swap store was beautifully renovated and an abundance of new supplies for teachers and students were donated by Returning the Favor.
After seeing the show, people from all over the country began contacting Badeker to ask how they could start a Swap in their area.
Even though the first employee was recently hired as BTSS’s Operations Coordinator, the store is largely run by volunteers and members who do everything from checking guests out and stocking items, to organizing inventory listed on BTSS’s website.
Memberships are available to anyone who uses educational materials. Membership fees are based on what members consider reasonable and fair, and covers the cost of keeping the organization up and running. Membership is not required to obtain supplies from BTSS.
For more information about BTSS, becoming a member or volunteer, visit: http://teachersupplyswap.org.