Board recognizes couple behind S.M.A.R.T.

Board recognizes couple behind S.M.A.R.T.
Posted on 10/21/2021
Morganton, NC – Thursday, Oct. 212021

The Burke County Board of Education recognized Jim and Susy Tilley for their work with S.M.A.R.T. (Supplies, Materials and Resources for Teachers) at Monday’s board meeting. After 12 years, the couple
retired from being what Superintendent Dr. Mike Swan called, “the heart, soul and sweat behind S.M.A.R.T.”

The Tilleys helped start S.M.A.R.T. in April of 2009 as a grassroots effort dedicated to providing school supplies to Burke County Public Schools students and teachers. Through donations, both private and corporate, over the past 12 years, S.M.A.R.T raised more than $3.5 million in supplies that went directly into classrooms. Those supplies included paper, posters, binders, markers, staplers, paper clips, money bags and more.

Swan said, “For teachers who spend between $750 and $1,000 per year out of their own pockets for supplies for their students, being able to go to the S.M.A.R.T. supply store and shop for free was a tremendous help, relieving a financial burden not only on teachers but also Burke County families who struggle to equip students with supplies.”

Through the years, the Tilleys sought donations of new and gently used school and office supplies, asking individuals and businesses to clean out their supply closets and give to the cause. Wells Fargo was one of the biggest donors throughout the years, sending a total of 660 pallets of supplies. When a business in town, such as Henredon, would close, the Tilleys would go directly to them and secure donations of office supplies.

The Tilleys also worked with WSOC-TV Channel 9 School Tools to collect school supplies from the community in collection barrels placed around town. They also worked with local businesses -- large and small -- churches, pharmacies, restaurants and car dealerships as well as individuals in the community to secure supplies and monetary donations to buy supplies.

Teachers were encouraged to post their needs on S.M.A.R.T.’s website, and the Tilleys did everything they could to help meet those needs.

The Tilleys hosted their last open house on Aug. 24 at the former Morganton Jr. High building on College Street and donated any remaining supplies to the Outreach Center. The board voted on Monday to sell the College Street building to a developer.

The Tilleys have been married for 36 years and have one son, Alex, who is 30. Jim is originally from Waynesville and Susy is from Italy. Susy’s connection to Morganton is through her dad as this is his birthplace. She moved here in 1982 where they have truly made a lasting mark on education in Burke County. In 2011, the Morganton Business and Professional Women Club named Mrs. Tilley as Woman of the Year.

Superintendent Dr. Mike Swan said, “We are truly grateful for S.M.A.R.T. and the Tilleys and their dedication over the years to ensuring that our teachers are equipped with the school supplies they need. Too often teachers have to spend their own money to help stock their classrooms with supplies. We were so fortunate to have this resource in our community for over the past decade. Thank you S.M.A.R.T. and all of those who contribute to its mission.”
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