A passerby may think upon hearing the cheers and seeing the smiles that it was Christmas in August at Lemira Elementary School on Friday. Just swap out a sack of presents under a tree with boxes of school supplies on a truck.
Employees from …
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Employees from Palmetto Health Tuomey volunteered to bring more than 100 cases and $10,000 worth of classroom supplies and cleanliness products to the Fulton Street school after departments throughout the hospital collected items teachers specifically asked for at the end of last school year. Hospital departments also wrote notes of appreciation for the teachers.
"We wanted to take a few moments to give back to the teachers that give so much to the students," said Ty Collier, the hospital's manager of rehab services and chairman of the Diversity and Inclusion Council. "We all know all teachers dip into their own pockets."
Collier said from administration to marketing and communication to rehab to nursing to radiation, the supply drive and delivery effort "captures the spirit of the organization and the culture we have of giving to our community."
Tuomey has worked with Lemira for the past two school years as a community partner and is starting this school year's partnership off before classes even begin. Sumter School District encourages businesses to adopt a school by providing it with specific needs while also building a foundation with students who may be future employees.
Hospital employees participate in a mentoring program with Lemira students, and they come out to eat lunch and go to recess with them, but Collier said Friday was a time for them to thank the teachers.
"It was a bit of work with logistics and dealing with 65-plus departments," he said, "but today made it all worth it ... That meant more than any other bit of sweat or work or anything that we did on our end, and certainly it's a joy and a pleasure to bring a smile to the teachers."
The community partnership between Tuomey and Lemira teaches the students there are jobs other than doctors and nurses in a hospital that are just as vital.
"It's very important that we come into the school systems and make sure the children are aware of those things," said Darion Canty, a Summerton native and the hospital's patient liaison coordinator who also serves on the For Goodness Sake Council.
While it is a goal of the community partnerships to educate students in school and life - Canty said those who volunteer from Tuomey become big brothers and sisters to the kids - taking care of their teachers is just as important.
"It's beyond words that I can describe. For me to sit out here today and to hear them say it's like Christmas what we do in the community, it basically fills our hearts up with love," Canty said, "and that's what we're supposed to do. We didn't come here today to give the teachers random supplies. We came out here to provide them with specific needs for themselves to carry them throughout the year."
When third-grade teacher Ashleigh Morton opened her box of supplies and started pulling each item out, her excitement for each continued to grow. The products were not extravagant. Tissues, hand sanitizer, crayons, dry erase board markers, construction paper, air fresheners.
"A lot of those are extras that we don't put on our school supply list (through the district). Those are things that we get when we run to Walmart to get throughout the year, so those will really come in handy," said Morton, a fifth-year teacher and Sumter native who has spent her career at Lemira. "Some parents do send us tissues and hand sanitizer, but it goes pretty quickly when you're serving 25-30 kids in a class."
Morton is Lemira's 2018-19 Teacher of the Year, and she said the community support from Tuomey does not go unnoticed.
"I think you guys know that we are just in a time when teacher retention and recruitment is just such a crisis right now ... and part of that is the pay, which of course nobody goes into teaching for what they make for money, but that is part of retaining good teachers," she said. "I think knowing our big businesses like Tuomey appreciate us and support us, I think that's going to make a positive impact in recruiting and retaining quality teachers in Sumter."
Morton, like any good teacher, seems to be in the business for the right reasons.
"Compassion (is the key). Showing kids that you care about them. Building true relationships with them, just getting to know them. You can't teach a child that you don't know," she said. "You get to love them at the end of the year. I cry every year at the end of the year."
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