A Gift for Teaching supplies teachers with supplies for students in need.

Publix volunteers at a Gift for Teaching event

A Gift for Teaching connects students who need supplies to learn and teachers who need them to teach effectively. It raises money to buy supplies, but it also connects with businesses that discard items that schools find useful. The concept is simple: improve education by providing free resources and surplus materials to educators, who then distribute the supplies to students who need them most.

Teachers can shop for supplies at the organization’s store once a month for 10 months out of the year. They can also order online and pick up curbside or visit a mobile store when it’s in their area.

“They know what’s going on in their students’ lives, what they need. We hear from teachers all the time about the impact, how having access to free supplies helps them,” said Angela Garcia, vice president of Development and Marketing. “This levels the playing field; they have equal access.”

For instance, some students who have little often feel embarrassed sitting next to students who have everything they need, and 94% of teachers said the free supplies are important to ensure students are ready to tackle daily activities. They bolster a student’s self-esteem and improve their interest in learning and social engagement.

Publix Charities has sponsored the organization’s The Great Big Backpack Build event, an initiative of their Ready for Back-to-School campaign which recently attracted 400 volunteers and 30 corporate partners. “We stuffed 20,000 backpacks full of school supplies for students in an hour and a half,” Garcia said.

Publix District Manager Abe Gonzalez volunteered with the organization for years before joining its board of directors. “This organization has always had a special place in my heart. Improving the lives of students and teachers aligns with my passion to serve the community,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do more for students, teachers and this organization.”

A Gift for Teaching serves Orange and Osceola counties, where more than 70% of schools are considered high need. “When we talk to teachers, they say 55% of students usually arrive on the first day without the supplies they need. So we have the backpacks we packed delivered to schools prior to the first day. They are there, ready, waiting,” Garcia said.

The non-profit is predominantly funded through local foundations, individuals and corporations.  “For 25 years the community has come together and supported these initiatives to help us fulfill our mission every day, not only in funding but with volunteers as well,” Garcia said.  “A Gift for Teaching is grateful for financial support and volunteers from organizations like Publix and Publix Charities.”

Gonzalez believes that the organization fills a critical need “The ability to provide these supplies removes a layer of unnecessary stress for students, families and teachers, especially those with financial needs. These students are our future, and the teachers are instrumental in helping create a strong foundation. Both need our support,” he said.

Since 1998, A Gift for Teaching has donated nearly $163 million in supplies and supported 376,000 teacher shopping visits. Volunteers have donated more than 762,400 hours.

A Gift for Teaching is celebrating its 25th year by surprising 25 teachers each month with boxes full of school supplies to take back to their classrooms.

Gonzalez said he gets back more than he gives. “It’s all about giving back to the community. At A Gift for Teaching, I feel like I am making an impact one student or teacher at a time. It is a rewarding feeling knowing that we have done our part to ensure students have the supplies needed to have a successful school year.” He’s not alone. Several other Publix team members participated in The Great Big Backpack Build in June 2023, including Shane Gleason, Jeff Huff, Cody Tate, Ana Maria Price, Jessica Frankenstein, Nikki Wilbur and Brett Thomas.

gift for teaching event
gift for teaching event