BY CRAIG COLEY
There are no cash registers, no price tags, nor any employees, but the supplies on the shelves of this unique store on Bloomington’s Near West Side are used in about half of the elementary and middle school classrooms in Bloomington.
Teachers Warehouse is a nonprofit enterprise created by the Rotary Club of Bloomington to provide materials to teachers in Monroe and four neighboring counties. Some of these supplies are given to students who arrive empty-handed when the school year begins. Most of the items, however, are used as the year progresses and glue sticks dry up, crayons break, printer cartridges empty, and class projects require additional materials.
“There’s so much the teacher pays for,” says Lisa Rambo, a special education teacher at Clear Creek Elementary School. “My impression when I first came here was: This is awesome.”
Teachers Warehouse carries items ranging from everyday supplies to special materials, such as test tubes. Two rooms are filled with books that Janet Schell, a retired teacher, has organized by reading level and subject. Some of the most-used supplies—like glue sticks and sticky notes—are purchased new, but the vast majority of materials have been donated and then sorted by a team of 80 volunteers.
“Without the generosity of the community, this would not be possible,” says Judy Witt.
Witt conceived the program 15 years ago when she heard of a similar service in Cincinnati and then rallied the Rotary Club of Bloomington around the idea. When it opened in 2004, Teachers Warehouse served only Monroe County, but the store is now open to teachers in Brown, Lawrence, Greene, and Owen counties. The board of directors plans to expand the service to high schools this year. Teachers who work in private schools or public charter schools are not eligible.
Last year, more than 600 teachers received materials that, if bought new, would have cost about $775,000, according to Warehouse records. In addition to basic supplies, many of the items teachers requested on the “I Wish You Had …” bulletin board were delivered, including a fish tank, a rocking chair, and Japanese paper lanterns.
Teachers Warehouse is located at 524 N. Fairview St. and welcomes donations of materials, money, and time. For more information, visit teacherswarehouse.net.