A community in Pittsburgh is showing what it really means to love your neighbor.
Katie Couch, a school counselor at Sto-Rox Upper Elementary School, a Pittsburgh-area school in a low-income district, said she was informed during a staff meeting that the school was running out of paper.
After a few months of relying on donated paper, Couch learned that the entire Sto-Rox school district would soon be officially out of paper -- for the remainder of the year.
"I called Office Depot, I called Staples, I called a few different places and they told me to fill out a donor request form, which I did,” said Couch, who then went looking for a quicker way to fill the need.
“We were in such dire need of paper that I decided to go on Twitter and see if there was anybody that would respond faster.”
I am a school counselor at Sto-Rox, a low income school district in the #Pittsburgh area. We have completely run out of paper for the rest of the year. Any #businesses willing to #donate paper to us?@GiantEagle @shopnsave @steelers @penguins @PNCBank @CitizensBank @84LumberNews— Katie Couch (@Couch_Kitten) February 14, 2020
Local businesses, other Pittsburgh-area school districts, and donors as far away as Utah began sending not just paper but all other types of school supplies, said Couch.
“We even had an alum that graduated [from Sto-Rox schools] in 1952 drop off paper,” Couch told “GMA.” “It was amazing to see everybody come back in order to help the students…. I felt really proud of the community and I felt really proud to help the students that I work with every day.”
Since the tweet, donations have come in from nearly 500 individuals, local groups and businesses through the Amazon Wish List set up by Couch.
“We have a lot of donations from people that are saying, ‘From one teacher to another’ or ‘From one former educator to another,’ It’s incredible,” said Couch. “I think we’ve gotten over 300 boxes of tissues alone, which is amazing because that’s really going to help our classrooms.”
Sto-Rox has 1,400 students ranging from kindergarten through high school. Students at all three of its schools -- primary, upper elementary and high school -- qualify for free breakfast and lunch, according to Heather Johnston, Sto-Rox Upper Elementary School's principal.
Johnston, who attended the Sto-Rox schools herself, said this issue is all but far too common for low-income school districts.
“[Sto-Rox schools] don’t have a strong tax base like other districts… At the end of the day, we fall short because we have to think about the necessities,” said Johnston. “Do we pay for lights? Do we pay for books? Or do we pay for paper? I think it just came to that point this year, because the bills are piling up.”
Sto-Rox partners with nonprofits such as the Education Partnership, which helps the school get supplies, but this year the district had to ultimately turn to the community for support, said Johnston.
“The community support that we have received from this [tweet], I mean, it’s been overwhelming,” said Johnston, whose advice to other low-income school districts is to just ask for help. “I realized how strong the community is. As an alumni [of Sto-Rox], I’ve had people that I haven’t talked to in 20 years reach out because Sto-Rox is a special place. It’s a place that doesn’t matter how far away you are, you have roots here.”
While Couch said she's incredibly appreciative of the donations and the online attention, she's also happy to raise awareness of low-income school district funding.
“Our schools need supplies," she said. This story is "for every teacher that could use a little something extra or they could use some fundraising or just the extra help." Couch would like this story to "bring to light" how school funding works within the educational system. "Especially with voting that’s coming up. It’s just a reminder to people to look at how education is funded and bring awareness to what [students] need right now.”
A tweet about a school running out of paper sparks outpouring of support originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com