A Local Dad’s Project Funds Classrooms Around the Country

Ben Adam.

By Lisa Kava

An Upper West Side do-gooder’s effort to help one 2nd grade teacher led him to create a website enabling others to help teachers nationwide.

Ben Adam, a real estate investor, father of 3 and Upper West Sider for 15 years is the founder of www.classroomgiving.org, which features 500 classrooms from 43 states in need of supplies. All classrooms featured are run by teachers who are required by their schools to personally purchase classroom supplies out of pocket.  Anybody who would like to help these teachers can log in and adopt a classroom, view a wish-list and purchase supplies which will be shipped directly to the school.

The idea for his website evolved from Adam’s personal experience helping Elisabeth Milich, a teacher in Phoenix Arizona. In July 2018, Adam happened to watch a clip on the Bill Maher show which featured Milich and her story. Out of frustration, the teacher had posted her salary on her Facebook page in the spring of 2018 explaining that she was expected to purchase all supplies for her classroom. Ben Adam told West Side Rag that after watching the segment of the show he became curious and looked at Milich’s Facebook post. She had posted her W-2 showing her annual salary ($35,000)  and posted the amount of her yearly raise after she received her Masters degree ($160) She shared that she was required to spend close to $1,000 each year to buy school supplies for her room in addition to basic items for the classroom such as garbage cans and lamps, according to Adam.

Once Milich posted she received a frenzy of media attention both local and national.

Milich wrote to West Side Rag “I just happened to get a printout of my salary for the next school year and I also ran out of scotch tape. So I looked at my salary and knowing I would have to stop on the way home and get more tape I posted the salary in frustration of low pay AND having to buy every supply needed to make a classroom functional.”

Milich has been teaching 2nd grade for 7 years in a school that serves a group of kids from a lower socio-economic neighborhood. “It just comes with the job that you purchase things for your room ALL THE TIME,” Milich wrote. She  recalled how Ben Adam contacted her by Facebook message in August 2018 asking if anyone had offered to help. “I thought well this is strange but I answered all his questions and then he responded saying he would like to purchase supplies for my class. I thought there has to be a catch.”

Adam told West Side Rag that when he contacted Milich in August 2018 he figured surely her problem had been solved after all the publicity. He was surprised when she told him this was not the case. “I then suggested she send me a list of the supplies she needed,” said Adam. “She was very skeptical. It took her a few days. I put the list into Amazon and priced it out on a shopping cart. For $250 a semester I could easily supply her classroom so I sent her the supplies.” Before long Milich received boxes of paint brushes, markers, crayons books, all the items that she had told Adam she needed. “I was amazed and so thankful,” Milich used the experience of the kindness of a stranger as a lesson in her classroom. The children all want to meet their “New York Friend.” We made him a giant Thank You poster and he hangs it in his apartment…the kids in my class love that.”

The thank you poster from Elizabeth Milich’s class.

Through his further communications with Milich, Adam learned that her situation was not unique. He ultimately “adopted” 6 classrooms in her school district and subsequently decided he wanted to find a way for others who were inspired to help. This led to  www.classroomgiving.org, which went live on March 29th. “I am just a regular person, I consider myself middle class, not the typical  donor or philanthropist,” said Adam, who claims he wanted to enable people like himself to feel the satisfaction that came along with giving.

Any teacher in need of supplies may post information on the classroom and supply list to the website. Those who would like to help can log on to choose a classroom, view the wish list and purchase the supplies.  “This is a fresh concept, a different way of giving,” said Adam, who distinguished it from a gofundme campaign or being stopped on the street by large organizations asking for donations.  “Two days after you send an item you get a confirmation from Amazon saying this arrived at the school. This is real, it is tangible it comes right back to you and the personal feedback is almost immediate.” Courtney Thompson, a 10th grade English teacher also in Phoenix says she is appreciative of Adam’s efforts. “The financial challenges of teaching are immense. Ben’s generosity with Classroom Giving helps myself and my students because I get to teach without worrying about how I’m going to afford supplies or when I ‘ll have time to get to the store between jobs.”

Ben Adam would like to send a challenge to Amazon to integrate Classroom Giving into their platform. He would like to see a pop-up alert, informing the buyer about classrooms within 10 miles of an Amazon order being placed and offering the option to buy one item for that classroom. He hopes that an Upper West Sider who reads this story might have a friend who works at Amazon who could pass along the message. Adam also wants others to know how personally satisfying it has been for him to be able to help in such a direct way and that “you can be a regular person like me, you don’t have to be Bill and Melinda Gates to make a difference.”

NEWS | 12 comments | permalink
    1. Mark P says:

      Hope granted 🙂

    2. Upper West Sider says:

      What a generous man and what a wonderful idea.

    3. Deb says:

      When our kids attended PS 87, we would receive a list of school supplies that we were expected to donate for use by all the students in our children’s classrooms. This was a big change from when we attended elementary school and each child was expected to have their own notebooks and their own box of 64 Crayola crayons .

    4. Beth says:

      I would argue that Ben Adam is a better benefactor than the Gates, because he is responding to a need that exists. The Gates use their money to advance their own political/financial agenda.

      • Wendy says:

        Beth, that is of course a ridiculous statement, disparaging Bill and Melinda Gates and the billions they have spent to eradicate childhood illnesses in the world, empower women out of poverty, etc. It may not be your agenda, but it’s not your money. When you share with WSR all of your gift-giving and donating, then go ahead and stand on your self-righteous pedestal. Why not be more like Milich yourself – feel the gift of giving – instead of criticizing others for what they are or not doing?

      • B flat says:

        I agree, in that foundations necessarily have very high operating costs, salaries, etc. Sometimes direct cash giving is more helpful, as here.

    5. geoff says:

      now this is a good photograph. really good. acceditation?

    6. Uwsmom says:

      There has been in existence for a long time a website called donors choose.org which does the same thing without the link. I have bought Shakespeare books for kids in the south Bronx and glue sticks for students in Watts.
      Congrats to Ben for adding another option.

      • Helaine Katz says:

        I have been giving to donors choose for years. However, this seems a bit different in that this is for basic needs as opposed to being more project oriented as donors choose is. I think they both deserve our support.

    7. Nadereh says:

      Wonderful work!!
      Forwarded this to a cousin who works at Amazon.
      He is going to see what he can do.

    8. Bflat says:

      It’s a wonderfully kind and helpful volunteer effort. But can we acknowledge how bizarre it is that such efforts are needed at all? That teachers must pay for supplies out of their own pockets?

    9. geoff says:

      It’s shameful that teachers must provide the tools of their trade and pay for them too.

      I am swept away by this man’s goo will initiative and intend to participate.

      Could there be a next step? I wonder if it is possible to separate the acquisition component away from Amazon.

      Amazon’s shipping convenience makes them a ‘no brainer’ source, but I wonder if there is a way to involve small suppliers as a source. I see that as killing two birds with one stone.

      Are there any local businesses seeking a new role, a new way to participate in social welfare via the internet economy which could step in and take over from Amazon?

      Meanwhile, let’s go with Amazon!