HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The vision started a little over 10 years ago. After volunteering at a gift drive, retired school teacher Eula Battle and a friend wanted to give back to the community’s greatest influencers – teachers!
Battle knew the heartache all too well – after all, she too was a teacher trying to keep her students inspired to learn with little funding from the state. With teachers reaching into their own pockets to purchase supplies or sending out lists to parents, getting supplies was tough and she wanted to do something.
Battle started collecting a surplus of supplies from local businesses and started storing them in her garage. That garage was a humble start to Huntsville nonprofit Free2Teach. The non-profit allows teachers of the three public school systems in Madison County, including Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools, and Madison County Schools, to shop at their 10,000-square-foot warehouse every other month throughout the school year.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, widower of the late Eula Battle, said if she could take home all the kids, she would.
“She wanted to make sure that teachers could come down and have a resource center where they could get materials for the classroom, get materials that they could give to children in their classroom, and get materials that could make education a much better process,” Battle said.
According to the Free2Teach website, “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 its now 10-year history, Free2Teach grew from giving away $38,000 to giving away a total of $8 million in supplies and resources.”
Mylinda Dillard, who teaches seventh-grade science at Huntsville Junior High, said the nonprofit allows her to do more with her students because it helps her cover the cost of essential items for her classroom. That includes simple things like tissues, pencils, markers even paper can all add up to thousands of dollars.
“I have been able to do more labs, and activities, and things with those kind of just staple supplies. And that allows the kids to be able to do more hands-on stuff and they enjoy it,” Dillard told News 19.
Free2Teach Executive Director Alison Kling said the nonprofit’s mission is twofold.
“It’s to support teachers and make sure they are not spending out of pocket to fill their classrooms and to support their students,” she explained.
Dillard said this not only helps teachers, but it gives those students whose parents may have been struggling at home peace of mind because she’s now able to provide more than enough for her students.
“Anybody can go up there and get a pencil, and it doesn’t make a difference whether you had a pencil or not – it’s there and the importance of that is that the kids can continue to do their work.”
Dillard added that students no longer have to say, “‘I can’t do my work because I don’t have the supplies.’
She said the nonprofit “lets [her] provide and continue to teach.”
All those involved with the organization know that Mrs. Battle would’ve loved nothing more than to be here and see her vision continue to flourish.
“All she ever wanted to do was help the kids and teachers,” Mayor Battle added.
Through Free2Teach, the legacy of Eula Battle lives on in each and every student and teacher.
Dillard added that the generosity and big heart of Mrs. Battle has given her not only comfort, but pride in what she does.
“I’m so excited that I’m in a system that has that here, because I don’t know of any other places that something like this is at,” Dillard said.
2021 marks the nonprofit’s 10th anniversary. If you would like to donate and support your local students and teachers, you can do so on the Free2Teach website.