The Roane County Teachers' Supply Closet wrapped up the final week of its donation drive with a roller-coaster of emotions and a happy ending.
Every year the Roane Alliance requests donations of school supplies and money to provide basic classroom items to teachers. The donation drive ends with a "shopping day" where teachers can get the donated supplies free of charge.
Last week the Roane Alliance announced it feared a drastic shortfall. It had only collected one-third of its target amount.
Wednesday afternoon the big shopping day arrived and teachers were greeted with a fully stocked room of supplies. Leaders with the Roane Alliance said they received an outpouring of support from the community.
"It all came in so quickly in amounts big and small," said Allen Lutz with the Roane Alliance. "We had a local construction company, Rick Cox Construction, call and immediately donate $2,500 to make sure we could at least meet our minimum goal."
Lutz said out of the many stories of generosity displayed in the last week, one stood out because it involved a big gift from a small source.
Distant Birthday Donation Wish
Right now the academic calendar says it is fall break at Alcoa Elementary School. Yet, second grade teacher Hope McDonald was back in the classroom on Wednesday trying to catch up on a seemingly endless amount of work.
"People think teachers get breaks, but teachers don't get breaks," joked McDonald. "I just came in today to catch up, do some planning, and try to clean up my classroom so I don't have to worry about it and can enjoy the rest of my break."
McDonald's 10-year-old daughter Riley is on fall break from 5th grade at Alcoa Middle School, but gladly accompanied her mother to the classroom Wednesday.
"Honestly, I just love this place and love school," said Riley. "My mom had to do some planning so I asked if I could come with her instead of them getting a babysitter."
Riley entertained herself by playing with the classroom's stuffed animals and making crafts. She also sorts through school supplies with a full understanding of their expense.
"I just know how much money it is," said Riley. "I was with [my mom] when we were buying all my school supplies and it was outrageous with the price."
So when Riley celebrated her 10th birthday with a pool party this summer, she asked all of her friends to bring gifts. However, none of the gifts were for Riley.
"She just said, 'Mom, what if we asked people to bring school supplies instead of presents?' I said that's a fabulous idea," said Hope.
"My friends were asking me if I was sure that I did not want any regular presents. I said I'm sure. Yes, I want school supplies to help other kids," said Riley. "When they found out the school supplies were for other kids and not just for me they were cool with it."
Riley's friends delivered in a big way with several backpacks and large boxes of school supplies.
"We also had maybe 20 big ol' gift bags with tons of school supplies in them. It took two cars [to get them home]," said Riley.
Riley's fresh birthday stockpile of supplies was complete, but she had no idea where to send the items.
"This huge pile of supplies has been on my dining room table since August, just overflowing all the way to the floor," laughed Hope. "I kept telling my husband we would get them somewhere during fall break."
"We kept searching around but did not find anywhere to give them," said Riley. "Then last week I saw the thing on the news about the Roane County Teachers' Supply Closet."
The McDonalds contacted the Roane Alliance and told them a van loaded with supplies was headed from Alcoa to Roane County.
"She [Riley] came here and dropped off the largest donation of supplies we've had," said Lutz. "It hits your heart that someone would be so
kind and giving. It is just amazing for her to give up something she could have had because
somebody else needs something more."
"I instantly knew how much it would mean to them when we dropped off the supplies because there was just this little donation box and there were only a few things in it," said Riley. "It just made me so happy to think about how they were going to have so many supplies that it would blow their minds."
The 10-year-old girl who lives more than 50 miles away from Roane County delivered the gift of a lifetime in the teachers' time of need. Riley said the donation also reinforced a lifelong lesson about the personal gifts received through giving.
"When you donate stuff to other people, it makes the person who is getting the stuff happy and you happy knowing that you're doing the right thing," said Riley.