Two friends, one a retired school teacher, were volunteering at a holiday gift drive when they noticed a collection bin full of school supplies. These friends began discussing how wonderful it would be for teachers to have access to supplies like these for their own classrooms and students. It was December 2009, and the seed for Free 2 Teach was planted.
Free 2 Teach Executive Director, Eula Battle, was the retired teacher working at that holiday gift drive. She knew all too well the dilemma that many teachers are in, spending more and more money out of their own pockets to compensate for the dwindling funds allocated from the state’s budget for classroom supplies.
To address this growing problem, surplus and out-of-date supplies were collected from local businesses, including old letterhead, envelopes, binders and more. Initially, the supplies were stored in Eula’s garage. Today, a brick and mortar Free 2 Teach Store operates from a 10,000 square foot combined retail and warehouse space, providing free supplies to all full-time classroom teachers in Madison County’s three public school systems: Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County.
November 2014 Ribbon Cutting (L-R) Tiffany Jordan, Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Dee Fowler, Madison County Schools, Mayor Troy Trulock, City of Madison, Dana Trulock, Eula Battle, Free 2 Teach Executive Director, Carmen Rains, Free 2 Teach Store Manager, Mayor Tommy Battle, City of Huntsville, Chip Cherry, President Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
The organization has grown from that initial vision and idea to a strong and vibrant area nonprofit that serves 54,000 children and their 3,900 teachers. In it’s now ten-year history, Free 2 Teach grew from giving away $38,000 to giving away a total of $8 million in supplies and resources.
In 2020, our visionary Executive Director, Eula Battle, passed away after a battle with cancer. Read more about her life here. The legacy she leaves is a great one and the entire community has rallied around Free 2 Teach to ensure that our community continues to support our children and teachers. The Board of Directors for Free 2 Teach selected Alison Kling as the next Executive Director starting January 1, 2021.
From its beginning, Free 2 Teach has been about making sure our children are equipped to learn and grow. It has also been about community: a community of supporters, donors and volunteers who are at the core of all that Free 2 Teach accomplishes in our community. As we carry Eula’s passion forward we do so with a sense of joy, knowing that we are working to make a difference with every pencil, every marker, every notebook.
Free 2 Teach provides free resources to teachers in Madison County’s three public school systems. These resources are available to more than 3,800 full-time classroom teachers and school staff and their 53,000 students, improving the educational experience of our children and strengthening our community’s future workforce.
We will never forget the very first teacher who shopped at the Store, Charlene Crawford, from Morris Elementary School. As she was checking out with her buggy full of supplies, the volunteer gave her the total of how much she had saved by shopping for free supplies at Free 2 Teach. With gratitude, Charlene confided, “I’m so grateful to Free 2 Teach, because I have a newborn and by the time I pay for daycare, diapers and formula, there is no extra money for my classroom.”
Since Charlene first came through our doors in January 2011, we have hosted over 20,000 teacher visits at the Free 2 Teach store. Since that first day, we have been privileged to give away over $12 million worth of free resources to our teachers, their students and their classrooms!
*If you have a story to share, please send us your testimonial.
Students need supplies to learn. Teachers need tools to teach. Our community needs young people to drive our future. Free 2 Teach is the connection point for these needs. We connect our teachers with a multitude of resources including traditional school supplies, office supplies, furniture, room décor, craft items, books, math and science resources, even re-usable 3-D biology models available through our STEM Lending Library.
Teachers are tasked with one of the most important duties imaginable, to educate our children and create a new generation of leaders, thinkers and achievers. However, classroom needs go well beyond the limited state-allocated funding teachers receive for student supplies. Did you know that nearly 20 percent our community’s children live in extreme poverty and 36 percent of our public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch? What does it mean for our community if these students arrive at school without the tools they need to learn? How can these children even have a chance of success?
All too often teachers are faced with the choice of spending money from their own paychecks to provide critical supplies for disadvantaged students, or let these students do without in order to provide for their own families. In most cases, devoted educators spend between $500 and $1,500 of their own money to buy school supplies for their students and classrooms. This is a burden they shouldn’t have to carry alone. Free 2 Teach is committed to easing the personal financial burden of teachers and leveling the playing field for all of our students.
Each teacher who shops at the Free 2 Teach store leaves with an average of $505 in free classroom resources. The supplies teachers receive directly benefit students in two ways, 1) enhanced classroom instruction – benefiting all students and 2) teachers are able to put school supplies directly into the hands of the underserved students in their classrooms.
We are grateful to be able to give back to our community’s teachers in a very tangible way. We applaud their passion for doing this important work and look forward to supporting them as they continue to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students and our community.
“As a former teacher I know how important it is for a teacher to feel valued and encouraged by their community. We hope to add a little joy and happiness to each teacher’s day when they shop at Free 2 Teach.” Eula Battle, Executive Director, Free 2 Teach.
But we haven’t done this alone. This remarkable achievement is only possible because of contributions from local businesses, the generosity of community foundations and civic organizations, and the gifts of individual donors. Through countless supply donations and supply drives, and the gift of time from our many volunteers, Free 2 Teach is able to achieve the unimaginable. In just a few short years Free 2 Teach has gone from collecting and storing unused and excess supplies in Eula’s garage to giving away over $7.2 million of free resources to our teachers!
We thank you for your generosity, encouragement and commitment. Our story hasn’t ended. We are still at the beginning, perhaps, even yet in the first chapter! We look forward to continuing our story and serving our teachers, students and community for many years to come.
I am so grateful to Free 2 Teach for making much-needed supplies available for teachers! As an elective teacher, I see over 200 students a day. In order to provide for everyone, I frequently had to purchase classroom supplies and equipment from my personal paycheck. Free 2 Teach has helped me keep my classroom supplies stocked and organized so I can better do my job and provide for my students! Thank you to the donors and volunteers who make this incredible service possible for our area, our teachers and our very deserving students!
So much fun shopping without worrying about how much you are spending! They have everything to meet basic classroom needs to fun prizes and student incentives. I have gotten over $600 worth of materials in two shopping trips. The staff are extremely helpful and friendly. Thankful to have this organization and their support!
Thank you Free 2 Teach donors and volunteers! I had my first trip there today and picked up almost $200 in supplies and materials for my classroom!
It was wonderful!!!! I got 350.00 worth of goodies for classes. High school students need things too.
I had my first visit today and it was wonderful! Thank you so much for all your hard work! The volunteers were friendly and helpful. It is a blessing to have a place like this!
What a wonderful place! Everyone there was so helpful and friendly!
Much love and thanks for the treasures I received for my students and classroom on my first shopping visit. The joy and appreciation was wonderful to see on the faces of our Meridianville students. Feeling Blessed.
So thankful for what others see as “little” things, but they add up when you teach!!!! Thank you to everyone who gives time and resources for those who teach!
You are such an amazing organization! I appreciate you so much and am glad you have gotten so much good press recently!
We are thankful for Free 2 Teach! Such a blessing!
As a teacher who uses Free 2 Teach I appreciate all you do.