WBAY CARES: The Teachers’ Closet

Teachers are getting help with the supplies they and their students need, thanks to donations and volunteers.
Updated: Apr. 11, 2023 at 6:05 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Teachers. We rely on them to educate our children and give them the tools they need to succeed.

But sometimes those tools come at a cost.

More and more, teachers are using their own, hard-earned money to purchase necessary supplies for their classroom and their low-income students.

There’s a local non-profit helping ease the burden. It’s called The Teachers’ Closet.

It’s a place inside Peace Lutheran Church, 240 W. 9th Ave., in Oshkosh where educators can shop for free and feel supported. The shelves are always being restocked.

“Markers, colored pencils, crayons,” Kay Kuenzl-Stenerson begins to rattle off a list. “This is a big item, Command Hooks, which is also very expensive.”

“They have everything we need,” Joyce Moon said.

Kuenzl-Stenerson, a retired teacher, is executive director of The Teachers’ Closet. “I taught for 38 years. I’ve been on the side where I’ve had to or I’ve paid for books especially for my classroom. I know what the need is for this help,” she said.

Judy Richey donates to The Teachers’ Closet and understands the need. “And it’s not going away. It’s growing,” she said. “It’s not going away because as budget cuts happen in the districts there’s more put back on the families and on the teachers.”

Moon, a special education paraprofessional at Oshkosh West High School, can relate.

“Before, I kind of spend over $50 sometimes per month. During the holidays, I spend more money. So when I found out about Teachers’ Closet, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good,’ you know, because they have a lot of supplies we need.”

And they’re all free to teachers who work or live in Winnebago County thanks to donations from community members, businesses, and service organizations, like Altrusa, which Richey belongs to.

“Having these relationships that have continued for so many years are what makes the entire program successful. It’s still a hidden treasure to many people,” Richey said.

A necessary and award-winning resource not only made possible through donations but also the 20 volunteers who help keep the door to The Teachers’ Closet open.

“It’s funny because they almost fight over the times to be here because it’s so satisfying when the teachers go out and leave and thank them, ‘Oh, thank you for what you do.’ We love it,” Kuenzl-Stenerson said.

“If I can do a little bit of something every month or every couple months, it’s easy, and I really encourage folks to do it,” Richey said.

Kuenzl-Stenerson told us they’re especially in need of spiral notebooks, dry-erase markers, and pencils right now.

In addition to classroom supplies, it also offers personal hygiene items and cold-weather gear for the students.

You can learn about the organization on The Teachers’ Closet Facebook page.

The Teachers’ Closet is open 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on one Saturday each month -- usually the third Saturday, but that can change on holiday weekends.

Do you know someone who deserves some extra recognition?

Send an email to wbaycares@wbay.com. We may feature them in an upcoming story.