Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Miller.
Erin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started this very small non-profit after Hurricane Harvey hit our area. The idea was to help teachers rebuild their classrooms. A great number of schools were damaged or flooded, with entire library collections lost, classrooms filled with floodwaters, students displaced, homes lost.
We knew there was a need. I posted to my library friends and educators about what we could do as a community to help replace the thousands of lost library books. They told me we needed to let the dust settle and let the districts figure out what they needed. Schools were lost, libraries lost, technology lost. A daunting task to help rebuild. We decided to try to help the individual teacher rebuild his or her classroom as this seemed like a task we could accomplish in the near term. Helping teachers rebuild their classrooms was the start of an idea to help any teacher employed by public school systems located in the Greater Houston Area of Texas offset their personal costs in setting up their classrooms.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It took a few weeks to incorporate, apply for a tax identification number and nonprofit status. While I was waiting for the legal documentation to come back, I acquired a domain name and started building a website. I had done fundraising in the past so I wasn’t intimidated by the thought of fundraising for my own nonprofit, but the task of building a website was difficult and felt beyond my capabilities.
I hosted book drives and online fundraisers and applied for grants for free books or money to use towards books. By far, the hardest thing I’ve done to date is applying for grants! I’m not a professional grant writer by any stretch of the imagination. It is somewhat disappointing to not receive the grant after spending the time and effort to apply, but each time I apply I get a little better at narrating, providing details and statistics. I am proud to say I have received multiple book grants and one monetary grant!
Please tell us about Harvey Cat 4 Teachers.
Harvey Cat 4 Teachers was organized in September of 2017. Our mission is to provide financial assistance to teachers employed by public school systems located in the Greater Houston Area of Texas to purchase quality in-classroom reading materials and other with classroom supplies and educational projects.
In 2017, we provided funding to 18 teachers whose classrooms were directly affected by the hurricane, improving the classrooms for approximately 1,900 students. This funding helped replace damaged computer equipment and provided guided reading books, books for classroom-based libraries and much needed everyday supplies.
During the 2018-2019 school year, we helped kick off the careers and school year for four brand new teachers in Conroe ISD by donating classroom supplies and educational materials. In addition, we donated over 1,400 books to 34 teachers in the public school systems in Spring and Houston in order to enrich their classroom libraries for their students. In the 2018-2019 school year, our Classroom Library Program reached approximately 2,500 students across ten schools.
In the 2019-2020 school year, we donated 1,311 books to 57 teachers in the public school systems of Conroe, Spring and Houston in order to enrich their classroom libraries for their students. So far this school year, our Classroom Library Program reached approximately 2,200 students across 17 schools. Of the 1,311 books we donated, approximately 300 books went to children who had no access to books during the Covid 19 crisis. We had hoped to match or beat our book donation numbers from last year, but the Covid 19 crisis slowed us down considerably.
We are continuing our Classroom Library Program for the 2020-2021 school year. So far this year, we have donated 905 books to teachers located in the Greater Houston Area. In an effort to continue purchasing books for our Classroom Library Program, we have been working on grant applications and seeking other fundraising opportunities.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Promoting literacy is important to me and I love to read. My mom was an avid reader. She had books stashed all over the house in any bookshelf or nook or cranny she could find! Books were EVERYWHERE! I started pulling her books off the shelf when I was in elementary school.
I have always volunteered at the schools in my area. I have many teachers and librarian friends, so when my kids were young, I had many opportunities to read to students in the classroom. Reading aloud is an engaging way to promote the love of reading. I also feel it is important to have access to books, whether from a school library, classroom library or home. We help teachers make books available to their students.
- Website: www.harveycat.org
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: @harveycat4teachers
- Twitter: @EOCmiller