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Partnership enlisting corporate support for teachers

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Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A seven-year-old effort to enlist corporate support for teachers in the Guilford County Schools has a new name and a new director who plans to revive its partnership with local businesses and begin tracking its impact.

Formerly known as Fill the Bus and renamed Harvest for Teachers to emphasize its focus on addressing the needs of teachers, the effort asks teachers in the county’s 122
schools to submit “wish lists” of classroom supplies they need, and provides those lists to companies it recruits that agree to buy the supplies or ask their employees to make contributions to buy them.

The program “gives the corporate world the opportunity to give back to the community by supplying teachers with materials that directly affect the education of students in our community,” says Aaron Hunt, program director for the Volunteer Center of Greensboro, the agency that coordinates the program.

The effort, initially a partnership that included the Volunteer Center of Greensboro, Corporate Volunteer Council, Guilford County Schools, and chambers of commerce in Greensboro and High Point, now also include Communities in Schools and United Ways in Greensboro and High Point, along with the Guilford Education Alliance and
Guilford County Council of PTAs.

Harvest for Teachers will kick off at a breakfast July 11 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House at 800 Green Valley Road in Greensboro.

At the event, organizers will offer participating businesses a chance to network and learn about the program, and offer ideas about how to raise money from their employees, says Hunt, who joined the Volunteer center in April.

The Volunteer Center also plans to revive its partnership with the Corporate Volunteer Council, a group with 34 corporate members that have organized volunteer programs for their employees.

A key goal is “for a closer relationship with the Volunteer Center and the schools and the corporate world in Guilford County,” Hunt says.

Harvest for Teachers not only provides supplies that teachers need to do their jobs in the classroom, he says, but also gives companies and their employees an opportunity
to develop year-round relationships with schools.

“After supplies have been delivered, there’s an opportunity for the business to encourage employees to go to school and volunteer,” he says.

This year, for the first time, the Volunteer Center will track the dollars employees contribute, and the number of teachers who participate.

Hunt, who holds a master’s degree in business administration from UNC-Greensboro and worked for a year in the commercial real-estate business, is one of four full-time employees at the Volunteer Center.

With an annual budget of $300,000, the center has the mission of strengthening the community by creating meaningful volunteer connections, connecting people to volunteer opportunities, and connecting businesses with nonprofits.

The center works with nearly 170 nonprofits and serves 13,200 clients, including volunteers, businesses, schools and participants in its Human Race each spring and its
summer camp.

The center counts on United Way of Greater Greensboro for one-third of its budget, with the remainder generated by sponsorships, grants and fees for workshops.

Late May was the deadline for teachers participating in Harvest for Teachers to submit their wish lists, and now the Volunteer Center is working to match individual schools with individual businesses so they can begin raising funds to buy the requested classroom supplies in time for the opening of the next school year.

“They’re basically investing in education and training, which will benefit their future,” Hunt says, “and the future of the community as a whole.”

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