The school year is coming to a close at Whispering Wind Academy in Phoenix, but for the very first time, Elisabeth Milich isn’t digging into her own pocket to purchase supplies for her second-grade class.
Arizona teachers have some of the lowest salaries in the country — just one of the reasons they went on strike last year, reports CBS News’ Carter Evans. Milich posted her frustrations on Facebook, sharing her salary of just over $35,000 per year, $1,000 of which she spends on her classroom.
“And I think it just kind of snapped for me like, ‘I make so little money, and yet have to outfit my entire room,'” Milich said.
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Milich said there’s no supply closet where she can stock up on items like scotch tape and paper clips for her classroom.
“So I’m at Walmart buying my own garbage can for my classroom. And I’m laughing as I’m pushing the cart, ’cause I’m like, ‘Only a teacher would have a giant garbage can for their classroom that they’re buying out of their own pocket,'” she said.
Her post went viral and in New York City, it caught the eye of Ben Adam, who works in real estate. He sent Milich a message.
“It just said, ‘Has anybody offered to buy your class supplies?’ And I thought, ‘Well, that’s an odd message.’ And so I responded, ‘No,'” Milich said. “And then he reached out to me again and said, ‘I would like to buy any supplies you might need for the beginning of the school year.'”
There’s got to be a catch, she thought. There wasn’t. The daily struggles of so many educators had struck a nerve with Adam.
“I felt that for very little I can do a lot of good and I can feel good about myself,” Adam said. “Of course, that good feeling is contagious and a few months later I wanted to have the same feeling again and asked if she needed more supplies for the following semester. And that’s what started the ball rolling.”
Amazon boxes started arriving in her classroom. Then, six weeks ago, Adam went one step further and built a “Classroom Giving” website where teachers post supplies they need, and donors from anywhere in the country can help pay for them.
“This is like a wedding registry meets Secret Santa, and there is no commitment,” Adam said.
In just the past two weeks, the website has blown up – 275 teachers from 31 states have requested supplies. So far, 37 have had their wish lists filled. Pictures and notes from grateful teachers and kids are already pouring in.
From paints and crayons to novels, Milich told her students they were all gifts from their “New York friend.” One of her students called him a “hero.” Another said, “I think I know he’s rich.” Adam insists that he’s not.
“I am not a wealthy man. I own a small business but I also work,” he said.
Elisabeth Milich just wants to give him a hug.
“I don’t know if he’s a hugger but I just want to hug him.”