FORT WORTH, Texas -- Inside a small brick building on the grounds of the First Congregational Church in Fort Worth, childhood friends Vanessa Barker and Taylor Willis are bearing the heat and bending over backwards to help make the lives of Fort Worth teachers easier.
"We collect surplus materials from local companies, individuals, events, and we re-purpose the materials to be used in schools," Barker said.
The idea started years ago, when Barker, a Fort Worth native and FWISD graduate, was helping produce Victoria's Secret fashion shows in NYC.
"What I was noticing working on the show was a lot of materials were going to waste," she said. "After a fifteen-minute show, thousands of pounds of glitter were just getting thrown out, and I thought, 'There's a lot of schools that could definitely use things.'"
Barker moved back to Cowtown, and with the help of Willis, also a FWISD graduate, "The Welman Project" was born. It was named after Barker's birth mother.
"To re-purpose, to re-home and give something or someone a second chance," Barker said of "The Welman Project" mission.
The goal? To fill a classroom, not a landfill.
"Per month, average is about eight standard dumpsters worth of materials we're saving, and we're donating about $7,000 worth of materials to schools and non profits per month," Willis said.
Monday, August 7, they're holding the first-ever "Teacher Tailgate," where teachers can come shop their stock for free. They offered 100 "hall-passes" to attend the event, which were scooped up within a day of the announcement. All the openings may be spoken for, but they continue year-round to work directly with teachers and principals to get them items they need, from decor to furniture.
"There's so many back to school events going on in our city for kids and parents," Barker said. "There is nothing for teachers. And they're the backbone of our schools."
Randi Wintersole, a third grade teacher in the FWISD, is one of the teachers who will benefit from the tailgate.
"It's validating," Wintersole said. "It makes you feel good inside. It chokes me up a little bit. I'm trying to make a difference, and they're trying to help me make a difference."
"Yeah, it's sweaty," Barker said. "Yeah, your muscles ache at the end of the day."
But the purpose they find in re-purposing items for the classroom, they say, is worth it.
For more information on how you can get involved visit www.thewelmanproject.org.
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