Sewanee Elementary School Receives Impressive Community Donations

Virginia Ladd

Contributing Writer

Daphne Nwobike

Staff Writer

This past summer, the community rallied around Sewanee Elementary School (SES) through one of the Treasures for the Chest Initiatives by the Sewanee Civic Association, programming that supports at least three Sewanee organizations each year. Beginning July 10, 2023, the Sewanee Civic Association began advertising its Treasures for the Chest Initiatives, with the annual Sewanee Elementary fund drive a highlight. The Sewanee community raised several hundred dollars worth of school supplies and over $1,800 in monetary donations for all 175 students attending Sewanee Elementary School.

Each year, the Sewanee Civic Association hosts drives and donations for various local organizations on the Plateau, such as its two annual nonfood supply drives for the Community Action Committee (CAC). For the initiative at the Elementary, donations were collected in different ways, either by dropping off school supplies directly at SES, buying needed items from the Amazon wishlist, or bringing checks to Stirling’s, Blue Chair, or Taylor’s Mercantile. The drive ended on August 3, and the school supplies were packaged and distributed to students and their families on August 4 during the school’s welcome-back picnic.

Allison Dietz, principal of Sewanee Elementary School, says she was “absolutely grateful for the overwhelming support provided by the community.” Instead of parents having to purchase school supplies with their own finances, they were afforded the opportunity to simply come and select the items their children needed. From writing utensils to disinfectant wipes, all essential items needed were available to parents and their students. Reflecting on the experience, Dietz says, “Sewanee’s community is so wonderful. It makes you feel great. Starting back to school [like this] gave us that extra opportunity for that fun experience. We hosted an ice cream social [and] set out all of the donations that we had. It was like a shopping experience. [Parents] got to pick up their little grocery bag, go down the line, and grab things they needed.”  

Sewanee Elementary School staff were able to have “fun” this back-to-school season due to the donations, according to Dietz. “We received about 2,000 [dollars] in checks and cash, and so that was fun because it allowed us as a staff the opportunity to go to Walmart and buy the things on the supply list that we didn’t have a lot of or the more expensive things or just other things that teachers would typically buy like Lysol wipes and paper towels,” Dietz comments.

According to a Federal Department of Education survey from 2014 to 2015, 94% of public school teachers purchase supplies for their classrooms without reimbursement, with the average teacher spending $479 annually. This project “went so far above and beyond that [the community] could have supplied pretty much [the] whole school,” says Dietz. “A huge thanks to everyone involved. Our kids enjoy those supplies every day,” she adds.

Parents were also delighted by this turn of events. Dr. Chiedozie Uhuegbu, visiting assistant professor of German, whose son is a student at SES, says these donations “helped [him] save money.” Although he acknowledges that a good number of SES parents are Sewanee professors and stable enough to purchase these items with their own funds, it still means a lot that this initiative was carried out. Dr. Uhuegbu states, “I think there should be donations [to SES]; these donations matter because they help parents save money and not have to worry about their children. It takes away pressure from me.”

These community service efforts are not novel to Sewanee. Dr. Uhuegbu notes that these actions are “reflective of the small size of the town and the togetherness of this area—we care about each other, and we want to help each other.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified The Sewanee Civic Association. The article also should’ve included that the Association leads at least three Treasures for the Chest programs a year: two at the Community Action Committee for nonfood supply drives, as well as the annual fund drive for Sewanee Elementary School, which last year raised $25,525 for the school. The Sewanee Purple regrets the errors.

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