With the start of the school year upon us, students are not the only ones buying notebooks, paper pencils and assorted other supplies. Teachers are doing the same thing.

And many are doing their back-to-school shopping at Ruth’s Reusable Resources in Scarborough, where teachers who are employed by participating school systems can take anything in the store for free.

The rush at Ruth’s is similar to the one retailers see at Christmas. Since the end of June, Libby has been at the store every day restocking and preparing for the upcoming school year, a job that is becoming more and more demanding.

“Every year we get more members more teachers, more stuff,” she said. “Every part of it is growing except for my building.”

During the past couple of weeks Ruth’s has seen hundreds of teachers come through her doors. On last Wednesday alone 111 people picked up classroom items and about the same number stopped by on Thursday.

Mary Ann Foley, a teacher at the Reiche School in Portland, was busily picking up a wide assortment of items including beads that she will use for necklaces, paper and little prizes for students.

“I’m so pleased our school is involved with Ruth’s,” she said. “I think it’s a great resource for teachers.”

This is Ruth’s 11th season in operation. It originally served just the Scarborough school district, but has expanded over the years and has served more than 68,000 students throughout the state. This year she has seen teachers come from Lee Academy, north of Bangor, to as far south as New Hampshire.

“I can find a lot of things here I would have ended up buying on my own,” said Barbara Maling, a Saco Middle School alternative education teacher.

Maling took an assortment of items on Thursday afternoon, including office supplies such as ink jet paper as well as some fun items for her students like a T-shirt transfer computer program.

“I thought it might be an interesting project, especially the computing part of it,” she said.

Mary Linneman, a third and fourth grade teacher at Riverton School in Portland, was picking up three-ring binders, rulers, highlighters and other items.

One advantage of coming to Ruth’s is that it saves the school district money, she said. Also, walking around Ruth’s with its eclectic mixture of items ranging from jigsaw puzzles of Yosemite National Park to barrels full of film canisters helps to give her some ideas for classroom projects and lessons.

“Little gems pop up every now and again that you don’t expect, but can use,” she said.

The interest from teachers and the increased amount of donated materials to her business, has led Libby to begin looking at moving from the Bessey School, where the business was founded.

While there is some discussion about using the school as part of a future YMCA complex, Libby insists that is not the only reason she is moving. She simply has outgrown the space and needs a building designed for warehousing products while also providing sufficient room for the store.

For example, she recently received 23,000 three-ring binders, which could not fit in the space and are now being stored off-site in a rented storage area.

But finding a new home has not been easy. Ruth’s is a non-profit organization and cannot afford high rent and at this point the organization does not have enough money to purchase land or a building in Scarborough, which she figures will cost $1.5 million.

As a life-long Scarborough resident, Libby said she would like to remain here, but said it may not be feasible. Still, she needs land that is close to the Turnpike and other major arteries.

Libby is beginning to take steps to raise the capital to fund the move, starting with a fund-raising campaign that will begin this November. The campaign start with an auction of donated antique desks that have been painted by various artists.

Ruth Libby, owners and founder of Ruth


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