When Elisabeth Milich shared a photo of her meager salary on Facebook last year, she never thought the simple post would change her life — and the lives of other teachers.
Last year, Milich, a 43-year-old second-grade teacher at Whispering Wind Academy in Phoenix, posted a shot showing her $35,000 teaching salary. Her intent, she says, was to highlight that many teachers struggle with the salary while having to pay for additional class supplies.
“That is the frustration. That’s what prompted me to post it. But I had no idea it would have the effect it had,” Milich tells PEOPLE, noting that the post was shared at least 1,000 times in just five days. “It ended up going viral. Besides shock and disbelief … a lot of the responses were super positive and resulted in a lot of people being made aware of how low teacher’s salaries are.”
Milich says she published the Facebook post in March and shared that she pays for “every roll of tape I use, every paper clip I use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board.”
Milich, a mom of three, deleted the post after just five days due to negative comments from people who accused her of “complaining” or being dishonest. However, Milich says she has taught for at least seven years and the pay stub was recent. With the post gone, Milich forgot about the incident.
But she was reminded months later when she opened a Facebook message from a stranger at the beginning of the current school year.
“He simply said, ‘Has anybody offered to buy supplies for your classroom?’ I wrote him back and said, ‘No,’ ” Milich recalls. “He wrote back and said, ‘I would like to purchase any supplies that you need for your classroom.’ I just thought that was so crazy and there’s gotta be a catch because this man lives in New York!”
Sure enough, the stranger — Ben Adam — sent Milich everything she asked for, and has done so each semester since. He sends the supplies through Amazon and Milich says he’s even done the same for five other teachers at the school.
“It has changed my life completely. It’s so humbling and so kind, it just renews my faith in the human race. There are kind, kind people who want nothing in return. It’s immensely helped me in the sense that I’m not buying things and don’t have to go without. It’s blessed me as a teacher,” Milich says, noting that the gesture has touched her students as well.
“We call him our New York friend. [My students] are so excited when a package arrives to the classroom and they can’t wait to see what it is,” she adds. “It’s changed the whole culture of our classroom and is so impactful. It’s been an amazing partnership.”
Adam took his kindness even further and launched Classroom Giving, where people can volunteer to provide a classroom anywhere with school supplies. The website lists more than a dozen classrooms that are now “fully supplied” as a result of the organization.
Adam told Good Morning America that Classroom Giving does not function as a fundraiser, noting that the site allows participants to send supplies directly to classrooms.
“We are not asking for donations and we are not raising any funds,” he explained. “It takes you to Amazon and you enter the classroom address into your Amazon address book. You send whatever you can afford and you know that item has gotten exactly to the person you sent it to.”