It was 2009 when Susy Tilley, and her husband Jim, began collecting school supplies for students in need in the Burke County School District. The community had witnessed several closures of area furniture factories and textile mills – resulting in many families losing not only one, but two streams of income.
“Many families had both parents working in the same factories,” said Tilley. “Suddenly, the number of children who qualified for free or reduced lunch far outnumbered those who did not.”
As the county began to suffer economically, local teachers were left to address the growing need of students who came to class without a pencil, paper or any essential school supplies.
“The teachers, who have little income and lots of bills, were trying to fill the needs of their student themselves so we decided to help that school year,” said Tilley.
A decade later, the couple has collected thousands of school supply items, from pencils to backpacks, for the school district’s students through WSOC-TV’s 9 School Tools program.
“In the span of 10 years, we have seen more than one teacher cry. Tears of joy, that is, for having received supplies that were really needed in their classroom,” said Tilley. “We have had so many thank you cards and notes from teachers, that we’ve started a file”.
In partnership with Classroom Central and Communities in Schools, WSOC-TV’s 9 School Tools covers 22 counties and is the largest school supply drive in the Carolinas. Over the past 20 years, 9 School Tools has been able to serve nearly 4 million students.
“We believe that children need a good start in life so that they are later able to succeed as adults,” said Tilley. “Children should never have to do without food, shelter, school supplies and love.”
The Tilleys are planning for another big year for their school supply collection and are encouraging community members to join them in support.
“If we don’t help them and give them the tools they need in school, many of them will stop trying as early as the third grade,” said Tilley.
The donations from 9 School Tools stay in the county where they’re donated, so any items donated at designated locations in Burke county will benefit students in the Burke County School District.
“Something as simple as a notebook allows a child to be equal to his or her peers. Even if it is only for a few hours in school,” said Tilley.
Learn more about 9 School Tools at www.9SchoolTools.com
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