The non-profit plans to support a record 107 teachers across the state this year.
Department stores. Office supply stores. Even grocery stores are displaying “Back to School” signs already. Although most students don’t start classes until next month, Wisconsin teachers are getting ready to head back to their classrooms, and a statewide non-profit is helping them stock all the necessities.
Eric Salzwedel co-founded Do Good Wisconsin (DGW) three years ago as a general way to spread positivity throughout the state. When he sees someone doing something kind, he shares it on his organization’s social media pages. He also commits some random acts of kindness himself and gives his 5,000 followers opportunities to do the same. Salzwedel’s very first fundraiser was a statewide school supply drive, but not the kind most people are used to.
“I always drive past school supply drives for students and kids, and don’t get me wrong, those are definitely needed,” Salzwedel told UpNorthNews. “But I have friends who are teachers, and they seem to be underpaid. That’s when I had an idea.”
Salzwedel turned to social media, asking his friends to donate school supplies for teachers and asking teachers to email him if they needed help.
About 150 teachers quickly replied.
“It was kind of a last minute thing,” Salzwedel said, thinking back to that inaugural drive, “But the response was overwhelming. So we kept going.”
Now, DGW is in the middle of its fourth statewide drive, with a goal to help 107 teachers of the 350 who applied. A “tough process” was applied, he said, to trim down the do-gooder list in order to give each teacher more supplies—prioritizing first-year teachers and those who teach in high-poverty districts.
The price tag to help all 107 will reach $15,000.
“While the bigger issue is teachers’ pay and teachers having to purchase items out of their own pocket, we are committed to supporting them how we can and in a way that we can,” Salzwedel said.
Nine out of 10 educators will not be reimbursed for their back-to-school purchases that can range from pencils, notebooks, whiteboards, and posters to software, according to the National Education Association.
Do Good Wisconsin relies on public goodwill for its success.
DGW is raising money to buy supplies for this year’s drive through the end of July. In the past, DGW requested donations of supplies, but the group switched to financial gifts so that every teacher will get similar boxes of the supplies they consistently need.
Do Good Wisconsin has a Facebook page that features updates on its other good works and its need for donors and occasionally volunteers.
“We’re always looking for sponsors and supporters,” he said. “No amount of time or money is too small.”