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by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning Foundation Grant Story Archive:
A Ray Of Hope From The Sunshine Project
SERVE Volunteers In Education
St. Peter Claver Catholic Scholarship Fund
Tampa Bay SLED Hockey Program
Everyday Blessings For Foster Children
The Spring Of Tampa Bay, Where Family Abuse Ends
A Gift For Teaching
Salesian Youth Center
Connected By 25

On Wednesday, May 31 the Lightning Foundation, charitable arm of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the St. Pete Times Forum, presented nine financial grants to charities in the Tampa Bay community totaling more than $70,000. Marking the first time in its history that the foundation has conducted a grant program, the event signaled the evolution and continued growth of the Lightning Foundation which aims to be a leader in Tampa Bay, helping to make our community a better place to live, work and play.

Below is the seventh of nine features that will run weekdays on, detailing each program that received a grant and why it was selected by the Lightning Foundation's Board of Directors. For more information on each program or to learn how you can help please look for the link at the end of the story.


Poet William Butler Yeats once said "Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire." Imagine trying to spark a flame without tools such as matches or even two sticks and some kindling. Central Florida teachers face that problem each day in the classroom as almost half of their students can't afford school supplies.

In fact, the situation for some students in impoverished areas of our community is so dire that half of students can't afford lunch and go to school without socks, underwear or showers. Devoted and understanding teachers spend an average of $1,000 of their own money each year to stock their classrooms with supplies. Even though Hillsborough County is the ninth largest school district in the nation, the State of Florida ranks 45th in educational spending and owns the nation's worst graduation rate. When Greg Landwirth first heard these astonishing figures the wheels began turning on what would eventually become A Gift for Teaching of Tampa.

"My brother started a Gift for Teaching in Orlando and the need was the same in Tampa so I wanted to replicate the program in our community," Landwirth said. "There is an enormous need for students that can't afford school supplies. Since we see children who can't afford lunch, we make the assumption that parents can't afford supplies for their kids so they can participate in learning."

A Gift for Teaching provides extras supplies from individuals and businesses for area school teachers at no cost through their 'Free Store'. Landwirth realized that local businesses often throw away large amounts of materials and realized it was a great opportunity to provide teachers and their students with valuable school supplies to ensure equal education.

The A Gift for Teaching Free Store opened its doors in 2002 and was originally open to 17 public schools. As the program grew, so did the number of schools aided by the program. A Gift for Teaching now serves 70 schools and 1,800 teachers in the most impoverished areas in Central Florida. The entire program donates almost $15,000 in free supplies each day and has distributed a total of more than $2.6 million to date.

The grant from the Lightning Foundation will provide the funding for one of 10 local Title-I schools to participate in the program.

"Financially, receiving the grant will help out as well as create awareness in the community," Landwirth said. "Public awareness is extremely important for us to continue to get funding and grow the program. Being involved with the Lightning is a good way to get the message out because they are in the public eye."

More than 350 local businesses have contributed in the Tampa Bay area while more than 4,000 organizations have contributed in the entire program throughout Central Florida. Every dollar received by A Gift for Teaching is turned into $6 worth of supplies that go directly into the classroom for underprivileged children. Other donors include the Bank of America Foundation, the New York Yankees Foundation, Citigroup, Outback Steakhouse, Pepsi Bottling, JP Morgan Chase and more.

With help from organizations such as these and the Lightning Foundation, A Gift for Teaching of Tampa can provide the spark with which they can light the fire of education in Tampa Bay's underprivileged children.
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