RUSKIN — The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce held its annual New Teacher Breakfast at Destiny Church in Ruskin on August 16, with 145 teachers in attendance, all new to South County schools, and 210 people in total, representing area officials including Hillsborough County Sheriff Office Major Ron Hartley, Chris Farkas, District 8 Area Supervisor, Dr. Alan Witt, President of the Hillsborough Community College SouthShore Campus, school administrators and chamber members.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman also attended the breakfast, bringing 150 sackpacks, canvas cinch-bag backpacks, each with a plastic zipper pencil pouch that included crayons, a pencil, a pen, a plastic ruler, a pencil sharpener and a large pink eraser. Murman received the sackpacks from the Office Depot Foundation’s “National Backpack Program,” which has helped more than three million children since 2001, by donating sackpacks and backpacks to students across the nation and the world.
In a press release, Murman stated that she is working with the SouthShore Chamber to identify schools and teachers in the area that would most benefit from receiving the sackpacks.
Chamber members also stepped forward to help students in need, providing everything from classroom supplies to clothing items for children. Additionally, the chamber once again held a shoe collection for children in need of such basic supplies. Last year the organization collected 75 pairs of shoes with a goal of beating that this year with 100 pairs of shoes. According to chamber executive director Melanie Morrison, the chamber exceeded that goal by collecting 112 pairs, all of which were donated last weekend to the Back to School Coalition of Hillsborough County.
The chamber also donated checks to the Parent Teacher Association to ensure that every student in South County will be able to purchase at least two books when the book fair comes to their respective schools.
Each teacher in attendance was presented with a gift bag containing school supplies and special gift baskets were also presented to four area elementary schools. The special gift baskets included toiletries, socks, underwear, and shorts, along with gift cards from Staples and from Barnes & Noble.
According to the results of the June 2013 Horace Mann Educator Advisory Panel Survey, the majority of teachers will spend up to $400 of their own money for needed school supplies in the coming year. Those supplies will range from essential items needed by students who can’t afford them to supplies needed for classroom operation and projects. In the survey, 38 percent of teachers responding stated that more than two classroom projects had to be abandoned due to lack of funds. The State of Florida does reimburse teachers for a fraction of what the typical teacher will spend on supplies for the coming year.
As a result, the support of the chamber in such events has an immediate and significant impact for both teachers and their students. In the Horace Mann survey, 90 percent of teachers considered community support and involvement in schools to be either critical or very critical.
The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce is located at 137 Harbor Village Lane in Apollo Beach. For more information, call 813-645-3808 or visit www.southshorechamberofcommerce.org.