Swap Circle For Chicago Area Teachers To Provide Surplus School Supplies

CHICAGO (CBS) — When you hear back to school supplies, you probably think of kids, pencils, pens and notebooks; but teachers also need to stock up before classes begin again in the fall.

Now, instead of having to dip into their own wallets, a new non-profit is lending teachers a helping hand to get ready for the new school year.

Barbara Koenen, founder of Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange, lives by the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Koenen takes donated and unwanted materials, typically from area businesses, and sets up a flea market-like shop for teachers.

“This whole city is sharing, and that’s what’s really great. So they’re (teachers are) thrilled; saving them time, giving them creative ideas, saving them money, and giving them all kinds of things that they wouldn’t normally wouldn’t have to work with; and that benefits the students,” Koenen said.

On average, teachers spend $500 or more out of their own pocket each year to cover classroom basics. Last year, Karen Soto spent $1,500 on supplies for her 2nd grade class at Waters Elementary School in the Ravenswood Gardens neighborhood.

“I’m really excited about it. So this is like my back-to-school shopping right now. I’m kind of geeked about it,” she said.

At Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange, it’s about much more than just pencils and paper. Designer clothing studio owner Alice Berry donated plenty of fabrics that teachers might be able to turn into curtains, tablecloths, costumes, and more for their classrooms.

If you’re a Chicago area teacher, and interested in the Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange’s inaugural swap circle, just head to the Chicago Teachers Union Center at 1901 W Carroll Av. on Friday or Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Donated supplies will be available to teachers with proper ID or organizational affiliations.

Koenen said the Chicago Teachers Union not only donated their hall for the swap circle on Friday and Saturday, but provided a grant to help create a more permanent shopping center for teachers.

For more information, or to donate supplies, visit the Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange website.

Watch & Listen LIVE