MCDONOUGH — Priti Griffin tells the story about a Henry County teacher who came to her with tears in her eyes as she thanked her for more than $200 worth of school supplies to kick off a new year in the classroom.

“Her message just about put me in tears,” Griffin said, adding the teacher told her that she couldn’t afford to take her family on vacation in the summers because she often spent $500 of her own money on classroom supplies at the start of the new school year.

“She lucked out with one of our sponsors who spent a lot of money,” Griffin said. “She probably received $250 of supplies. When she got all the supplies, she sat down and cried. She took the money she would have spent on supplies and took her kids somewhere on vacation. That meant the world to me.

“These teachers give so much to our children. They are with these kids all day long and they notice the ones who are in need. Wherever the void is, the teachers fill that void. They’re parents too and they need family time and sometimes when they’re sacrificing for our children, they’re taking away from their own children.”

For that reason, the non-profit Griffin and her husband Dave founded several years ago in Henry County, the Raise Me Up Foundation, has developed the Adopt-A-Teacher program to assist teachers and students with the needs they have at school.

When it began four years ago, the Adopt-A-Teacher program had a goal of helping 25 Henry County teachers with supplies at the start of the new school year. As companies and people in the community stepped forward, that 25 grew into 192, with numbers increasing each year. This year, 300 teachers will receive help with everything from basic supplies such as pens, pencils and paper to other items needed in the classroom.

The Raise Me Up Foundation Board of Directors met and decided on the maximum number of 300 teachers for this year and within hours after registration opened, 300 teachers had signed up on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The second phase of the Henry County 2019 Adopt-A-Teacher project kicked off on Monday, in which companies and individuals are invited to visit the Raise Me Up Foundation website to “adopt” a teacher and learn more about how to help. Griffin says any amount is welcomed. Those interested can go to Sponsors can choose a school and then choose a teacher from the list at that school. All deliveries should be made to the front office of each school.

“We would love sponsors and hope the people in Henry County will adopt these teachers,” she said. “We also leave the amount of the supplies up to the sponsors. It’s really up to them. We suggest a minimum of at least $50, but it’s really up to them. Teachers spend so much out of their pockets. They are appreciative to get anything.”

Griffin cites numbers that show 91 percent of teachers in the U.S. spend an average of $800 a year on their students and says that most public K-12 school systems are receiving less support from states than ever, which leaves a gap. She said teachers often step in and fill those gaps for students who do not have the family support or financial ability to provide these daily supplies.

Sponsors already include Southern Grace Hospice, Strawn & Co. Insurance, Heritage Community Foundation, McDonough Presbyterian Church, McDonough Woman’s Club, McDonough Black Belt Academy, Shane’s Rib Shack, S-2international, The Eyecare Place and Buddy Kelley Properties, Inc.

“This is a good partnership with the school system,” Griffin said, adding that while much of the initial classroom supply needs are funded by school budgets, teachers routinely go into their own pocketbooks whenever the funds run short.

“One could argue that no adult is more trusted by children than a caring and loving teacher,” Griffin said. “Teachers often have more opportunities to identify children in need and to establish a network of support that can bring needed comfort, trust and peace into a child’s world. For that reason, we align our foundation’s support squarely behind our elementary, middle and high school teachers of this county.”

Griffin, a mother of three and her husband, who is a special education teacher and administrator with the Henry County School System have dedicated their Raise Me Up Foundation to give back to the community and to help create a “safe and healthy environment in which children can grow. Our mission is to provide awareness, education and resources to all adults and not just parents,” according to the mission statement.

Raise Me Up Foundation Board members include Dave and Priti Griffin, Audrey Lynch, Yasna Grainger, Tony Turner, Dr. Chon Hester and Jennifer Biles.

In addition to its Adopt-A-Teacher program, the Raise Me Up Foundation also sponsors the Darkness to Light initiative that helps protect children from sexual abuse; the Healthy Children Conference set for this fall and its Bag of Blessings project. The Bag of Blessings idea seeks to provide each child in the county’s foster care program with a personalized duffel or travel bag filled with a number of items to help them during a difficult time.

“Between Adopt-A-Teacher and the Bag of Blessings, we are just thrilled to have the community support,” Griffin said. “I like that we have something positive in Henry County that brings the community together and helps the children. There’s so much negativity in the world. These two programs in Henry County help bring people together.”

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