New nonprofit Elmer’s Helpers donates school materials to Summit County classrooms
September 13, 2018
Over the last year, Jane Burns kept seeing the same images all over the national news — teachers holding signs saying "On Strike" and asking for better pay. She wanted to see something change, so she decided to make a change herself.
Burns reached out to a teacher at North Summit Elementary School, asked what she needed for her classroom and collected the items. Last Thursday, Elmer's Helpers, the nonprofit Burns recently formed, made its first delivery.
Burns, a Kamas resident, said the goal of the nonprofit is to deliver school materials to dozens of classrooms in Summit and Wasatch counties over the next year. From there, she wants to continue to provide materials to underserved schools in the Wasatch Back and, eventually, the rest of rural Utah.
She started with North Summit Elementary School after being connected to Heidi Robertson, who taught fourth grade at the school for 10 years but is transitioning to be an art teacher this year. Burns approached Robertson over the summer and asked what she needed.
She replied with, "200 sketchbooks," and Burns said, "You got it."
"Even if I was going to have to pay for it myself, those sketchbooks were going to be in her classroom," Burns said.
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She reached out to her friend Betsy Wallace, managing director of the Sundance Institute, who helped get the nonprofit off the ground, as well as fund the sketchbooks.
On Sept. 6, a group of volunteers met to deliver the sketchbooks to the classroom.
Robertson said the donation was a huge help, especially because it was her first year as the art teacher. She said if it were not for Elmer's Helpers, she likely would not have been able to purchase the sketchbooks. As someone who has taught in elementary school for a decade, she knows how much teachers can spend to provide their students with what they need.
"This is the just the nature of teaching," she said. "You spend so much money out of pocket."
That money goes to pay for snacks and tissues for the classroom, as well as materials for projects or to decorate the classroom, she said. Teachers in Utah are allotted $200 from the state Legislature to pay for classroom materials, but Robertson said teachers typically blow through that amount quickly.
Now that she has seen how Elmer's Helpers can benefit teachers, she has joined the organization's board with the hope of finding other educators to aid.
"I'm really excited by the prospect of how many teachers Elmer's Helpers will help," she said. "The hope is that more teachers will be able to do some things that they wouldn't be able to do or afford on their own."
"I would like to see where a teacher never has to pay a dime out of their own pockets," Burns added.
Burns said she hopes the work Elmer's Helpers does shows teachers how grateful the community is for them, something she believes they often do not hear. She said inviting community members to visit the classrooms and drop off the materials can help people who either do not have kids or have children who are no longer in the school system remain involved in education.
"Teachers teach our future, all of our future," she said.
Teachers who are interested in receiving donations or people interested in donating funds can submit their requests and payments via http://www.elmershelpers.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.