Vallejo Teachers Shop for Free

Free teacher supply store open at Vallejo High School

A few of the ‘pink shirt’ volunteers await teachers at the free Vallejo Teacher Supply Store on the campus of Vallejo High School. RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN — TIMES-HERALD

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald


Former school board member, Hazel Wilson, who helped found the Vallejo Teacher Supply Store and supervises the student volunteers, gives the Times-Herald a tour of the merchandise.RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN — TIMES-HERALD

Many would agree that it’s hard enough to be a public school teacher without having to come out of pocket for classroom supplies. So, some Vallejo folks created a way to help.

With signs around the walls saying, “You are a VCUSD Superstar,” and “We celebrate VCUSD educators,” the 4-year-old Teacher Supply Store occupies two portables on the Vallejo High School campus. It stocks a wide range of donated school supplies and all Vallejo City Unified School District teachers are welcome to stop by and stock up, former school board member, store organizer and head volunteer Hazel Wilson said.

“The first year, we began as part of the Napa Teachers Resource Store,” but its organizers decided to exclude Vallejo teachers, so Wilson, along with teachers union president Sheila Gradwhol, started their own, she said. They took the best parts of what Napa had done, incorporated some things Wilson found online that other districts are doing, and the Vallejo Teacher Supply Store was born.

Now, the store gets support and volunteers from the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Vallejo High School football and cheer teams and the Hospitality and Health and Fitness Academies, she said.


Nearly all the items available are donated from various sources, with the single largest donor being CC Sabathia and Amber Sabathia’s PitCCh In Foundation.

“Amber and CC have not forgotten this community; they have not forgotten the children of Vallejo, so I’ll volunteer for anything they come up with,” Wilson said.

Teachers from any Vallejo school can come in when the store is open — 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays in the weeks before school starts for the year, and then again in advance of the second semester in January — and shop for free pens, paper, binders, and more.

Jhon Charlie King, a 17-year-old Jesse Bethel High School Law Academy student and store volunteer said that special boxes reserved for every first and second-grader in the district this year contain a backpack with school supplies like pencils, folders, a binder and a notebook, as well as crayons, markers, a stapler, a pencil sharpener and other items.

Each year the entire student body of one school also gets a full backpack. This year, it’s Cooper Elementary School, Wilson said.

“We stuff the backpacks for a specific number of students per class and we hand them out before school starts,” Wilson said.

Teacher Supply Store teacher/shoppers will notice limit signs on most items — like, “take one” sharpie or “limit 5” pencils.

“But, if a teacher really needs more, they can usually have them,” Wilson said.

Besides the stacks of various types of paper, notebooks and folders, the store also stocks some seasonal decorations for Thanksgiving, Halloween, winter and spring, she said.

“And we keep a wish list, of things we don’t have that people have asked for, and when we get a gift card donated, we’ll try to get those,” Wilson said.

The volunteers, most Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority debutantes, learn a slew of things from the experience that will no-doubt be useful in their adult lives.

“They restock shelves, take inventory, do customer service,” Wilson said.

“I learned organization,” said Amaya Reynolds, 18, a recent Vallejo High School graduate and former store volunteer who plans to study public relations at San Jose State University this year. “I did the scheduling, too, and other things, so, I also learned management.”

Each year, the store project kicks off at Vallejo’s Juneteenth celebration, with a Pack the Bus event, Wilson said.

Word goes out city-wide, to churches, businesses and elsewhere, that donations are needed, and people come and fill up an actual school bus will supplies ranging from dry erase markers, paper, hand sanitizer and all manner of other items, she said.

The full bus then brings the items to fill the Teacher Supply Store shelves.

The store also maintains a stash of recycled plastic bags and one shopping cart, to help shoppers haul away their “purchases.”

Jesse Bethel Filipino language teacher Lucy Marte said she frequents the store every time it’s open. She said she spends about $1,000 annually out of her own pocket even with the help.

“I give a lot of it to my students. We do projects every year, and we use a lot of this stuff. It’s very helpful,” she said of the store. “I wish we have more places like this for the students.”

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