The day I visited, the volunteers at the Teacher Resource Center of the North Bay (TRCNB) were in a cheerful tizzy.
It was day one of moving. Four industrious women were busily wrapping, packing, taping and sorting a treasure trove of donated arts, crafts and educational supplies in rooms filled to the brim.
On further exploration, I glimpsed bookcases stacked with hardly used notebooks; bins of new markers, crayons, pens, pencils and plastic scissors; stacks of colored paper; and used, silver filing cabinets overflowing with drawers of yellow Post-its. And in my favorite room, labeled “Odds ‘n Ends,” I noted multiple sticker books of animals and happy faces, bolts and swaths of patterned cloth, plastic tubs filled with a variety of stylish beads plus an eclectic assortment of artsy mishmash.
At the helm, skillfully guiding the morning’s activities, was Kathleen Montgomery, founder/director of TRCNB, a nonprofit whose mission is twofold: ensure that students have the materials they need to succeed in the classroom, and reduce teachers’ personal monetary expenditures by offering them free shopping for school supplies.
It’s been a winning combination serving more than 1,450 teachers and 26,000 students in Napa County since the organization’s inception in 2010. (Vallejo City Unified School District was added in July 2015.)
While her long-term career was that of a registered dental hygienist, Montgomery also taught fourth grade for four years right out of high school. “I was too young,” she recalls, “but I always said that after leaving teaching, it was the most gratifying thing I ever did.”
Her affinity for teachers came full circle when, during the course of a few months in 2008 and 2009, Montgomery happened to hear three similar remarks that propelled her into action:
“A gal I worked with brought in a sheath of paper,” Montgomery explained, “and she had a list of supplies, and what killed me was that they were asking for a $100 donation — that blew me away. Also, my dear friend who taught kindergarten for 25 years said to me ‘I cannot believe how much money I am spending every year on supplies.’ Plus, while I was tutoring reading for a first-grade teacher at Salvador, I was walking past the office one day and ran into the teacher of the class. She had just run out of paper (this was in October) and was being told that she would have to buy the paper for the rest of the year.”
In the midst of deep budget cuts to education coupled with a recession-based economy, Montgomery found her new calling and was determined to create a place where teachers could shop for free. “Something had to be done,” she remembers.
Inspired by the model of Community Projects — a Napa-based, all-volunteer nonprofit that raises funds through its thrift shop sales and donates the money to worthy causes within Napa County – and with the help of local developer and “angel” Casey Escher, TRCNB has been housed in the Gateway/Airport Park industrial area since 2010. (Thanks to another “angel,” Bill Myers, TRCNB will be moving to 571 Technology Way and reopening in early January.)
The organization’s constantly changing inventory is supported through a variety of sources: back-to-school supply drives; the holiday house project; community grants and private donations; an annual golf tournament; and funds from the national organization, Kids in Need Foundation.
Supplies needed most include No. 2 pencils, crayons, two-packet folders, colored markers, dry erase markers, spiral notebooks, graph paper, index cards, glue sticks and construction paper. New and slightly used office/classroom supplies, grade-appropriate library books and new merchandise that can be used as prizes and awards for students are happily accepted.
“Teachers are so thrilled to get the basics they need for the classroom,” said Montgomery, “but as an extra bonus there are numerous arts-and-crafts items that make their day. My goal is to increase the quantities each teacher can take so that there will be one box of crayons for every kid.”
To donate supplies and/or monetary gifts and/or to volunteer, visit the TRCNB website at TeacherResourceCenter.org or call 707-346-0526.