GOOD NEWS!: Trackside Pizza gives teachers a helping hand

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Trackside Pizza took up a collection of school supplies and other items, which are being donated to the school district to help teachers and their students. Pictured, left to right, are Trackside Pizza co-owner Bernice Hopkins, Jaime Hopkins and employee Barbie McDaniels. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA — The start of a new school year means a fresh start, reuniting with friends, and the prospect of lots of learning and fun. But for teachers, it can also mean a pricey return to the classroom when they have to dig into their own pockets to help their students.

Trackside Pizza in August held a collection to help teachers get the supplies they and their students need without hitting teachers in the pocketbook.

“We are collecting things like tissues, writing supplies, notebooks, paper, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, feminine products, dry erase markers, deodorant samples,” Bernice Hopkins, co-owner of Trackside Pizza, said.

The idea was first spurred by a customer who is a teacher. She mentioned that teachers often have to shell out their own money to make sure the students have what they need in the classroom.

“A teacher came in and said a lot of money comes out of the pockets of the teachers for the extra supplies, so anything would help,” Hopkins said. “That is why we decided to collect usable things for the staff.”

In previous years, Trackside staff collected backpacks filled with supplies that were distributed to students who needed them, but this year decided to go in a slightly different direction.

“We are collecting school supplies for the teachers, not for the students this time. It’s for the students in the long run, but not directly for the students,” she said. “We did backpacks every year until last year. That went very well, but you are limited to the number of kids you can help, the number of backpacks you can collect. But when everything was changing because of COVID, we said this year we would collect supplies for the teachers.”

The restaurant’s staff put out the call on Facebook and spread the word among their customers, and the community has been stepping up.

“We tell them we are collecting school supplies and if they want to bring anything in, we will donate it,” Hopkins said. “Even if it’s one or two items, it’s helpful — it’s one or two things the teachers will now have.”

Trackside employee Barbie McDaniels, who also works for the school district, used the tips she receives at the restaurant to help the cause.

“I used my tip money to buy two bookbags and notebook paper, crayons, markers, colored pencils and looseleaf paper,” McDaniels said. “Working for the school, I see what children have and don’t have. There is a need for this.”

Next year, the Trackside staff is thinking of possibly doing a “Fill the Bus” collection to get more people in the community involved.

They continued accepting donated school supplies until Labor Day and then planned to deliver the collection to the school district, which will then distribute it to the classrooms that need help.

The idea to raise up a collection of supplies for the teachers was the brainchild of Jaime Hopkins, Bernice’s daughter, who said that after a year of not doing a collection because of COVID, it was time to get back to it.

“We’ve done bookbags in the past and last year without doing them it didn’t feel right — things didn’t feel the same,” Jaime Hopkins said. “So this year when a teacher mentioned a lot of teachers pay out of pocket for supplies, I thought we should buy them supplies because they are teaching our children and they don’t make a lot. Hopefully the community can come together and help these teachers who are teaching our local neighborhood kids. That’s why I decided to do the box instead of just collecting backpacks. This way, it is helping any kid that might need something and doesn’t have it, or the teacher that may not have enough money to buy crayons or markers for 25 kids a day.”

“By doing this, hopefully we are helping the teachers in the community to make sure these kids are learning with the proper equipment,” Jaime Hopkins added. “If they don’t have the proper things they need to learn, they are not going to be able to learn.”

Trackside Pizza has done similar collections over the years, not just for students but for others as well. Last year they did a Trunk-or-Treat event for Halloween, handing out candy to local kids. And in the summer of 2020, when everything was shut down due to the initial COVID-19 outbreak, they collected food and other household and personal hygiene items for local seniors.

“We had a whole table filled with things and the seniors went shopping — they came with shopping bags and took whatever they needed,” Bernice Hopkins said. “It felt really good to help like that.”

Those who are making the donations — whether to the teachers, students or seniors — also benefit, Jaime Hopkins said.

“It feels good to help others who aren’t able to help themselves,” she said. “We are all family here and we try to extend our family out to other families. It feels good.”

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