When Barbara Blalock moved to Ahwatukee Foothills eight years ago she had a dream. She wanted to save teachers from spending the average $500 of their own salaries on school supplies for their students each year. In April her dream not only became a reality in Phoenix, but is quickly spreading throughout the state of Arizona. Blalock started organizing Treasures 4 Teachers, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, out of her garage in Ahwatukee Foothills. After advice from an advisory board of directors, and when her garage started to overflow with donated school supplies, she collaborated with the Cook College and Theological School in Tempe and opened a reusable resource center on their campus. "The goal of Treasures 4 Teachers is really to have a reusable center not only for teachers to come and shop for materials, but to use for meetings, training, education and volunteer opportunities," Blalock said, walking through her showroom full of donated supplies. "We have a cafe so they can come sit down and have coffee and snacks. It's all part of their membership." From thriving companies to private parties and closing businesses, items are donated to Treasures 4 Teachers from all over the Valley each week. An army of volunteers spend hours organizing the items so Blalock can display them in her showroom. Teachers then come to the center and fill up a bag of supplies for just $5. "I tell them, 'fill the bags as full as you can and as heavy as you can carry,'" Blalock said. In addition to local educators, Blalock has teachers from Yuma, Flagstaff, Coolidge, Florence and Maricopa utilizing her center. Many have even inquired about opening a Treasures 4 Teachers in their area. "My vision is to have a centralized warehouse and 10 Treasures 4 Teachers locations throughout Arizona," Blalock said. Intel is currently Treasures 4 Teachers' largest materials donor. The company donates a plethora of staplers, hole punchers, paper, pens and other miscellaneous office supplies to the organization. "Intel has someone that is passionate about reuse, recycling and repurposing - Kristin Marshall - and as a matter of fact she was nominated for their environmental award partly because of her work with us," Blalock said. Marshall, an administrative assistant in Intel's corporate affairs office, collects employees' old office supplies twice a year through a program she calls "Dump your Junk." She then donates the supplies to Treasures 4 Teachers. "Recycling is sort of my passion," Marshall said. "Treasures 4 Teachers allows me to divert from the landfills and to find people to use the supplies." Blalock opens her center to teachers by appointment only. She said this helps her to allow for a more personal shopping experience for teachers. "If an art teacher comes in, I can set aside things I think she might want before she arrives," Blalock said. "We had a very soft opening in April because I want to give teachers more personal service." To volunteer, donate or make an appointment at Treasures 4 Teachers, contact Blalock at (480) 751-1122 or info@treasures4teachers.org. Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or cfrayer@aztrib.com.

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