Adrienne Ledford, left, Treasures4Teachers of Tucson executive director, and volunteer Pat Woznick sort through books at the nonprofit organization. Teachers pay $35 a year for unlimited access to the supplies.

Courtesy of Treasures4Teachers of Tucson

Everyone loves a treasure hunt, and a few years ago, the quest became a lot easier for local teachers.

Educators can find free and low-cost school supplies, art supplies and 2,400 square feet of classroom treasures at Treasures4Teachers of Tucson, 6800 N. Camino Martin, Suite 124.

“It is just a treasure of supplies for teachers, a diamond in the rough,” said Samantha Burgin, a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that classrooms are outfitted with the supplies necessary to teach properly.

“Our main purpose is to make sure that teachers have what they need and children don’t lack supplies. We don’t want kids to miss out, but at the same time, we want to help save the environment,” said Executive Director Adrienne Ledford, a former teacher’s aide who modeled the program after a similar organization in Tempe.

“Many businesses, offices and individuals have office items and supplies they don’t want or need, and we clean, sort and repurpose them so teachers can use them. It saves teachers hundreds of dollars a year.”

Teachers can find everything from basic supplies such as paper, pencils, markers, glue sticks, binders and folders to art supplies including construction paper, paint, ribbon, tile and fabric.

The inventory also includes books for all ages, curriculum and educational materials, donations from retired teachers, office supplies, plastic bins, seasonal items and more.

Teachers pay an annual membership fee of $35 each and then have unlimited access to the free and low-cost items.

Ledford said the membership fees and low-cost items pay for the rent and utilities for the building.

“We have no paid employees, and 90 percent of the stuff in our store is free. It is like a glorified Dollar Store. The average teacher spends $1,000 a year of their own money for paper, pencils and other supplies, and we want to support them so they don’t have to do that,” Ledford said.

The organization, which attained nonprofit status two years ago, supports teachers from private, public, charter and religious schools as well as those who home-school. It serves teachers from throughout Southern Arizona and as far away as Casa Grande, Nogales and Safford.

Dennis Yawitz, who teaches a combined classroom of fourth- and fifth-graders at Satori, a local charter school, said Treasures4Teachers helped him build a class library and outfit his classroom.

“Our budgets are really tight these days, and the money we were gong to spend on math binders ... can now go to something else. There are so many great things there that other teachers have donated, and all the resources there have just been amazing,” Yawitz said.

Burgin, who teaches special education at Ironwood Ridge High School, said the organization is valuable for all teachers .

She utilizes the store for classroom reserves after items donated by parents at the beginning of the year have been depleted and to supply students who can’t buy the items themselves.

“There are two sides: Some people have the view that kids should be responsible and bring their own paper, pencils and supplies to class, but the other side is that there are kids who can’t afford to do that. If they don’t have supplies, how will I help them to improve and learn?

“It is a fine line. I don’t have the money to spend in abundance to outfit my classroom, so this has been great,” she said.

Burgin also believes that the variety of supplies at Treasures4Teachers helps to inspire creativity for both teachers and students.

“Kids at the high school level still like to do fun projects. It is a different way of learning, so those who don’t do well with just reading or writing get to experience academic areas in different ways and teachers get to have fun as well.

“It brings learning full circle, I think,” she said.

Burgin and Ledford hope to promote awareness about the organization.

“We are growing fast and furiously, which shows there is definitely a need for this,” Ledford said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net