WHITE MARSH—The 2020 school year will be an unconventional one for Baltimore County teachers and students, but one thing is certain—they will have the resources and supplies they need to learn both at home and in the classroom thanks to the new school resources center; The Exchangeree.
“I see my favorite books here!” Logan Jacobson said while enjoying a snack at the Education Foundation of Baltimore County’s Exchangeree center. Jacobson’s favorite books, the Captain Underpants series, are just some of the many school supplies that can be found at the Exchangeree. The mission behind this school supply center is to ensure all teachers and students have what they need to provide and experience a quality education.
“Imagine a student being asked to learn without pencils, books, paper, or participate in virtual learning without resources to complete assignments,” Debora Phelps, Executive Director of the Education Foundation of Baltimore County said at the Exchangeree’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
The ceremony for the Exchangeree, located at The AVENUE at White Marsh, took place on Wednesday September 2-but the Education Foundation has spent months preparing for the grand opening day. Partnering with Federal Realty at THE AVENUE at White Marsh, American Design, and Douron Furniture Solutions, the Exchangeree, which is the second of its kind within Baltimore County, acts as both a resource center for teachers, and as a place for educators to hold meetings, and work on long term projects throughout the school year.
School supplies, like paper clips, binders, books, and backpacks can be found at the Exchangeree-all free for teachers to take and use in their classrooms and supply to their students. Winter clothing such as coats, hats and scarfs will also be stocked in the Exchangeree for students to take and wear this coming winter. All of these supplies are donated by the community and distributed at the two Exchangeree locations, the second one being in Windsor Mill. Teachers then sign up on the Foundation’s website to visit the Exchangeree during its designated shopping days to take all the supplies they need free of charge.
Phelps, along with many of the Foundation’s board members, county representatives, and project partners who spoke at the ribbon cutting, stressed how important it is to help teachers stock up their classroom supplies.
“Classroom and student needs go well beyond the limited state allocated funding for our schools. And right now, families who often look at their teachers and schools for supplies are facing financial hardships and are forced to make hard decisions,” Phelps said.
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins said she also understands that teachers use their own money to supply their classrooms—something she hopes the Exchangeree will help them avoid doing.
“I know people in the school system who, every single year, take money out of their own pockets to provide things for their students. They shouldn’t have to do that, they have their own families to support,” Bevins said.
“No other business would ask you to take money out of your own pocket to provide supplies to 25, 30 students. I am hoping now, with the Exchangeree that this will be a place where they can come and talk amongst themselves and get the supplies their students so desperately need.”
Delegate Rick Metzgar also spoke about the important role educators play in our society and how they have gone to extraordinary measures to ensure their students can get the most out of their virtual learning experiences.
“My nephew has a very bad case of turrets. He is now 40 plus years old and he is working and it goes back to the dedication and commitment of [ educators and families] working together,” Metzgar said.
Educators and families in Baltimore County can continue to work together by supplying and utilizing the two Exchangerees—the only resource centers of its kind in the entire state.
“We are the only district in this state that has deep business partners to support initiatives such as this. I think that is something to shout from the highest building in support of public education in Baltimore County,” Phelps said.
“It was an honor when the Howard County Public School Board of education walked into the Windsor Mill location. It was an honor when Anne Arundal County Public Schools asked for a site visit at Windsor Mill
From August 2019 through June 30, 2020, the Foundation was able to provide 165,000 dollars worth of school supplies to 2,094 teachers at the Windsor Mill Exchangeree. Between both Exchangeree centers, in the month of August alone, educators from 40 schools shopped at the centers and took as many supplies as they needed for their classrooms. Phelps said these educators took over 72,000 dollars worth of merchandise—all at no cost to the teachers.
“They shopped with no money exchange. Why? Because the community believes in our public school system,” Phelps said.
Phelps said the Exchangeree depends on people to continuously donate school supplies, donate money , or volunteer to work at the Exchangeree to ensure its shelves are stocked with the supplies teachers need throughout the entire school year.
“Go back to your neighborhood, go back to your business and host a [ school supply] drive. Elicit your community to gather school supplies for our students who are less fortunate and we will take care of distribution. Make a monetary donation- I don’t care what it is. Five cents will get us someplace, it all adds up. Your donation will stock these shelves.”
To sign up to be a volunteer or submit monetary donations for the Exchangeree, visit https://educationfoundationbcps.org/exchangeree.