Former teacher, Charlotte firefighter still helps students in need

Charlotte firefighters have a heart for service.

A firefighter is about as close to a real-life superhero as most of us will ever meet, and the way the members of the Charlotte Fire Department give back seems to never cease.

The Charlotte Fire Department is helping prepare students for the upcoming school year by opening its doors to collect school supplies for students in need for WSOC-TV’s 9 School Tools program.

A former teacher who turned firefighter still gets into the classroom and knows the need to help students is real.

“Imagine coming to school knowing you don’t have something that you’re going to need later, so throughout that whole day, your mind is worried about what you don’t have,” said Antoine Calloway, a Charlotte firefighter.

Students who don’t have school supplies or other classroom essentials become aware of their shortcomings, which in turn often affects a student’s self-esteem.

“Those students figured out somebody beside them may have an extra pencil,” Calloway said. “You saw the compassion that some other kids or teachers have for those who don’t.”

After teaching for 14 years, Calloway decided to pursue his childhood dream and became a Charlotte firefighter in 2012.

“I come from the school system, and I said I wouldn’t ever walk away from it,” he said. “When there’s a need, we’re going to help.”

Covering 22 counties, 9 School Tools is the largest school supply drive in the Carolinas and will run now through Aug. 31.

Since 1997, in partnership with Classroom Central and Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the WSOC-TV 9 School Tools program has collected school supplies, which are then distributed free to students in grades K-12.

“The Charlotte Fire Department is a community-based fire department, and we engage in all levels, not just emergency services prevention and other core missions,” said Chief Reginald Johnson of the Charlotte Fire Department. “We are based in the community and want to be able to help out in any way we can.”

According to Classroom Central, about 127,000 children in the Charlotte area lack the basic school supplies they need to be successful in school.

With a difficult past year and the economic downturn, families will find it even more difficult to access supplies for their kids to complete their school year and not fall behind.

“I think the kids have to know that somebody cares, not only their teachers, but that the public cares too,” Calloway said.

Many of the more vulnerable and low-income families depend on Classroom Central for assistance.

“People, give whatever you can give, whatever’s in your heart,” Johnson said. “Even if it’s an eraser, a pack of pencils, those will be sent to good use at Classroom Central and will help out students in need.”

You can donate the school supplies at any Arby’s, Ashley HomeStore, E.R. Plumbing Services or Charlotte Fire Department station.

CLICK HERE TO FIND A DONATION LOCATION NEAR YOU.

Financial donations can also be made to the 9 School Tools program at different levels of giving that support Classroom Central.

For example:

· A donation of $9 will help provide homework supplies for students.

· A donation of $25 will help fill a student’s backpack with school supplies.

· A donation of $50 will supply a teacher with essential school items.

· A donation of $100 will supply an entire class with science, technology, engineering and mathematics kits.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A FINANCIAL DONATION TO CLASSROOM CENTRAL AND 9 SCHOOL TOOLS.

Learn more about 9 School Tools at www.9SchoolTools.com.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.