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United Way’s ‘gratitude giveaway’ celebrates, thanks teachers

United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades partnered with the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools to thank teachers for their dedication and service by gifting furniture and mattresses heading into the holiday season.

Held Nov. 21 at United Way’s warehouse in south Lee County, the gratitude giveaway included 475 items provided by United Way’s generous corporate supporters. Teachers could choose between queen-size Tempur-Pedic mattresses, accent cabinets, accent chests, dining tables, drum tables, and live edge sofa, end and cocktail tables. Furniture was available in a variety of deluxe finishes, including antique, blanc, walnut, ash, cedar and sea drift.

“It was a nice surprise to pop up and see that somebody wanted to do something sweet for teachers, especially right before the holidays,” said Marianne Hodges, a fourth-grade teacher at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts. “I really appreciate everybody thinking of us and being so generous.”

United Way coordinated the gratitude giveaway through the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. Within an hour of distributing a notice about the event, all furniture and mattresses had been claimed.

“The need is out there for everyone, and teachers continuously go into their own pockets to buy school supplies, shoes and clothing for their students that are in need because they want to help,” said Hannah Pelle, United Way’s chief operating officer. “It’s nice that we can give back to the teachers.”

Many of United Way’s partner agencies focus on education and youth, and the organization itself supports three Community Partnership Schools in Lee County that address barriers to success, including hunger, poverty, lack of access to adequate health care and lack of educational support. United Way also supports the School Resource Center that provides clothing, hygiene essentials and school supplies to children in need through The School District of Lee County.

After Hurricane Ian, United Way hosted multiple food and supply distribution events in partnership with the District. The gratitude giveaway was another initiative to show teachers they are appreciated and valued.

“We need to give thanks to our teachers all year long,” said Marshall Bower, president and CEO of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools. “It is so important to tell our teachers thank you.”

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