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Village Properties Teachers Fund Helping Schools with Basic Needs

The fund has provided more than $750,000 in supplies for K-12 classrooms countywide

When Ed Edick and Renee Grubb, the co-owners of Village Properties Realtors, started a Teachers Fund eight years ago to provide local classrooms with money for supplies, it was a great way to help schools fill requests outside the regular curriculum.

But with local schools struggling with deep budget cuts, the money donated by Village Properties and its partners has gone from luxury to necessity.

“In the beginning, a lot of the things the teachers would ask for were costumes for plays and things like that,” Grubb said. “But now, a lot of it is just basics. Students are not even getting the basics these days.”

Last month, the Teachers Fund hit a milestone: To date, more than $750,000 in supplies has been given to help K-12 classrooms countywide, and the fund has filled more than 1,600 classroom requests.

Any teacher in the county can visit the Village Properties Teachers Fund Web site. From there, teachers can fill out a form to provide the specifics of their request, as well as a description of how it would benefit students.

Once a month, Edick and Grubb meet with Zena Drewisch of Village Properties and Catherine Brozowski of the Orfalea Fund, a nonprofit partner. The four-person committee reviews the month’s requests to decide how to best allocate available funds. The Orfalea Foundation, a supporting organization of the Santa Barbara Foundation, also helps by supplementing the Teachers Fund as needed.

Deciding which classrooms are in the greatest need is by no means an easy task, and the Teachers Fund committee is always on the lookout for generous local vendors.

“We would love to find some local merchants to partner with for things like office supplies, cameras, art supplies and sports equipment,” Edick said. “All of those things have just been cut way back in our schools, so we’re hoping a few vendors can step up.”

In addition to the sizable donations provided by the Teachers Fund each year, Village Properties agents have taken a cue from their philanthropic bosses, giving portions of their own commissions to help struggling classrooms.

“Even in this market, our agents close an escrow and then donate,” Grubb said. “Our agents are truly very generous.”

Edick and Grubb are hopeful that that kind of generosity will rub off on the public. The Teachers Fund is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, which means that anyone can make a cash donation, and 100 percent of every dollar goes directly to the teachers. Donations can be made through the Web site, and every donation is tax deductible. Also, Village Properties can provide anyone interested in helping with a list of the supplies that are needed each month.

Edick and Grubb say it’s an honor to help local teachers through the Teachers Fund, and every year in October, Village Properties throws a party at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to show their appreciation. All K-12 teachers countywide are invited, and historically, about 450 teachers have shown up to be recognized for their efforts.

“Our teachers have such a huge responsibility, because these children are really the future of this country,” Edick said. “And they’re being asked to do more and more with less and less. Now is really the time for us to help them out all we can.”

The Teachers Fund and Village Properties are certainly doing all they can — and they show no signs of slowing. That is good news for schools all across the county.

Grubb puts it succinctly: “Our motto is one classroom at a time.”

— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributor.

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