As cars flooded parking areas and cluttered the roads surrounding Westside High School and packs of people began entering the building, it seemed like the beginning of the school year had occurred several weeks early.
But the teachers crowding into the school’s gym hadn’t come to do their jobs. They were just there to get their equipment.
The Kroger grocery store’s Atlanta division held its third annual school supply giveaway at Westside on Tuesday, distributing $20,000 in supplies to almost 700 Augusta teachers.
Teachers visiting Westside were given a blue bag with $40 in various school and office supplies, including dry erase markers, paper towels, pens and pencils. Teachers had to present a valid Georgia teacher ID to get their free supplies.
Around 60 people, including Kroger store associates and ROTC students, volunteered to distribute the school supplies.
Teachers at one point formed a line that stretched from the gym to outside the school itself. It only took two hours for visiting teachers to clean out Kroger’s school supply stock.
Teachers have begun to pay heavily to augment and prepare classrooms, according to national studies. The National School Supply and Equipment Association said 99.5 percent of public school teachers spent their own money on supplies during the 2012-13 school year, and the national average of money spent by teachers hovers at $485 a year.
Laquita Parks, a Kroger customer communication specialist, has been running the Kroger supply giveaway since its beginning in Augusta. Parks said the event helps alleviate some of the struggles teachers deal with yearly.
“Every year, school budgets get a little bit smaller. We’re doing this to help teachers get the things they need. I’m glad I work for a company that encourages us to help our communities in this way,” Parks said.
“Every year we do it, we get so much appreciation from the teachers who come to see us. They send us thank you cards and things like that. It’s an honor to work on something that allows me to put something like this together.”
Teachers attending the event said events such as the Kroger giveaway helped them keep costs down as the school year begins.
John S. Davidson Fine Arts science teacher Amy Mealing hoped to get “free goodies” for her classroom at the giveaway.
“I do end up having to spend my own money to get supplies for my classes … it could be anywhere from $50 to $200 depending on what I need,” Mealing said.
“We do get help from our school’s Parent Teacher Organizations as well. Anything like this is really helpful and useful to us.”
Derrek Blitch, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Hephzibah Middle School, said he appreciated any events that helped teachers get the supplies they needed.
“We have a lot going on, especially since many of us have so many responsibilities and teach multiple classes,” Blitch said. “We appreciate any help we receive, whether from business, parents or some other form of outreach.”