ALAMOSA — With teachers protesting for higher wages and increased school funding across the country, San Luis Valley Health has started a new program to ease the financial burden of instructors. Called the Apple Tree Project, the inaugural initiative will distribute school supplies to 215 classrooms servicing 4,094 students across the Valley.
Colorado ranks at number 42 in the nation for teacher pay and teachers spend an average of $600 per year out of pocket for supplies not provided by schools.
Jennifferr Baird, a nurse and director of quality and safety at SLV Health, spearheaded the committee in charge of the program because of her love of donating to schools. Before moving to the Valley two years ago, she and her husband Jack spent two decades purchasing school supplies for teachers.
“I have always known how important teachers are,” said Baird. “They were always so appreciative of the donations but I knew that we needed to do this on a bigger scale.”
When a colleague received a text from her son’s teacher asking for more dry erase markers, Baird knew she had to get the program started. Modeled off of the Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Program, which donates Christmas gifts to children of incarcerated parents, the Apple Tree Project started with sending letters to pre-kindergarten through fifth grade teachers on April 13.
So far Baird has received roughly 100 of the 215 back with the teachers’ lists of requested items before the May 15 cut-off date. The supplies range from basic necessities like pencils, notebooks and dry erase markers to iPads. Those lists will then be attached to a tree for any community member to take and fulfill.
At the start trees will be placed at SLV Health, Conejos County Hospital and the Stuart Avenue Clinic. If a person doesn’t want to pick a specific apple, they’re free to donate general school supplies at the same locations. Baird also hopes to place trees in banks and businesses in other communities in the region.
Items will be collected in June and July at the SLV Health Foundation Education and Conference Center at 1921 Main Street. Cash donations are also accepted and checks can be made out to “SLV Health Apple Tree Project” for tax deductions. Then in August the supplies will be distributed before the start of school.
Having already received a $25,000 donation, Baird hopes to expand the program next year to more grades.
“I think it’s doable,” she said.
Businesses interested in hosting an apple tree can call Baird at 719-587-5782 or email her at [email protected]