Being stocked with hand sanitizer, tissues and paper towels is not only a necessary part of keeping April Winters’ classroom clean and healthy, but it’s also sort of part of her job description.

The Lilburn Middle School health teacher toted her yellow reusable grocery bag containing $30 worth of free school supplies Tuesday in one of the exhibit halls at the Infinite Energy Center knowing she’d at least gotten a head start on her back-to-school shopping. Winters estimated in about one month her classroom uses three bottles of hand sanitizer.

“I teach at least 40 kids in my classroom,” Winters said. “The more sanitizer I have to teach them about safety, cleanliness, hygiene — it helps out a whole lot.”

It may not take long for her to replenish her supply once the school year starts in August, but she’s happy to accept all the help she can get. She’s in her second year as a health teacher at Lilburn Middle, but she has picked up school supplies from Kroger’s drive long before that.

In the eighth year of donating school supplies to local teachers, Kroger passed out approximately $35,000 of school supplies to metro Atlanta teachers at its Gwinnett event. Another drive will take place in Atlanta next week and the two drives will combine to donate $70,000 in school supplies to local teachers.

Felix Turner, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Atlanta, said they expected to see between 2,000 and 2,500 teachers at Tuesday’s event. Each signed up on a registration sheet, picked up a yellow bag and collected approximately $30 of items, including copy paper, paper towels, tissues and hand sanitizer — products that a teacher of any subject and any grade level could use.

Including the Atlanta event, Kroger will donate supplies at three additional Georgia locations: Savannah, Augusta and Macon. Volunteers on Tuesday came from the local Kroger districts, employees from Kroger’s private label company and the Sugarloaf Mills Nike outlet.

“It’s an opportunity for us to say, ‘Thank you,’ and really kind of start them off,” Turner said. “Most teachers come out of their pockets with school supplies, so we want to be able to try to help with that and curb some of their expenses.”

The line of educators waiting for their goody bags snaked through an exhibit hall and crossed between a temporary partition into a hall with tables stacked with supplies and more palates of paper products nearby. There were about two dozen volunteers dressed in yellow Kroger T-shirts.

Volunteer Daphne Cook was recognized by a South Gwinnett High School teacher when Cook handed her a roll of paper towels at the end of the assembly line. Before working in corporate marketing and overseeing 11 Kroger stores, she was a bus driver for Gwinnett County Public Schools, mostly in the South Gwinnett cluster, for 14 years.

Her effort to help out Tuesday’s event had less to do with her ties to the local school system and more to do with her urge to help out her community. Even nine years after her bus driving career ended, se said she still is recognized by people who used to ride her buses.

“I run into people a lot of the time, and I haven’t changed a whole lot,” Cook said.

Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories in the county he grew up in.

Stay Informed