By CRAIG GARRETT
At her job with DeSoto Auto Mall, Heather St. John this month collected a pickup truck of donated backpacks, crayons, reading material, anything to help DeSoto teachers and local families. St. John, 28, sorted, packaged and dropped the supplies to staff at Nocatee and Memorial elementary schools. She shared the experience with the Arcadian.
Question: The idea of collecting school supplies?
Heather: “Every year I always try to help a family or families with school supplies. I try to pick people who are humble, who work hard and need help, without embarrassing the parents or the children. This year I helped a total of eight children out of my pocket personally. Once I did that, I decided to see just how many children and teachers I could help if I put on a back-to-school drive. I have always helped people whenever they are in need, I don’t do it for the gloating or even the recognition. Personally, that goes back to not embarrassing anyone. So, with just my little dream at lunch time, the back-to-school drive was born and within 24 hours Ana at Arcadia printing saw my vision and helped me make the perfect flyers.”
Question: Word got out how?
Heather: “I teamed up with my friends and family as well as coworkers and we started spreading the word instantly. It was shared via Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and word of mouth.”
Question: What was the reaction, did people just start showing up?
Heather: “The reaction was phenomenal! I couldn’t believe that within 48 hours almost all of my work family pitched in and started gathering their supplies and helped me make my dream a reality! I had people emailing me here at work, messaging me on Facebook and people gathering stuff from their house. No donation was too big or small. Everything was appreciated. I would run into people in the store and they would thank me for stepping up and either give me cash to purchase supplies for the truck or they would ask me if I could even come pick the stuff up from them.”
Question: The dealership was behind this, right?
Heather: “Of course! To start, I asked Mr. Mark Schlundt (co-owner) on a Friday afternoon if I could organize a back-to-school drive using one of the trucks here as the advertising location. Mr. Tim Kratzer (co-owner) and his department quickly jumped behind me and found me the perfect 2019 Ford Ranger to use. I also checked with my department boss, Mr. Bill Klein, to make sure that he would be all right with me setting it up and taking a little bit of time away from helping customers to help the community. The response and support I received almost immediately was very heart-warming. I have been here for almost five years and they always take such good care of everyone. I knew that all of them would be 100 percent onboard with helping and allowing me to do this, and of course, using the dealership as my prime supplies’ gathering location.”
Question: This is your nature, something from childhood?
Heather: “I’ve always helped others, I try to help people whenever/wherever I can. I have a hard time saying no. Growing up I was the same way, always helping and volunteering and trying to do good for others without wanting anything in return.”
Question: Supplies went where and what did teachers say?
Heather: “I divided the supplies almost equally! The supplies were put into 116 quart totes. The supplies were everything you could possibly think of. We gathered 21 backpacks, hundreds of kids’ supplies and even teacher classroom supplies as well. Nocatee Elementary School was so grateful and the staff was so friendly and welcoming. It was an amazing feeling to know and see how appreciative they were. There I met with Mrs. Andrews that day and she was very sweet. I also delivered supplies to Memorial Elementary. Despite the rain, they were very happy to see the amount of supplies that was gathered for their school.”
Question: Do this again?
Heather: “I absolutely think I will do this again! I already have the support behind me here at DeSoto Auto Mall.”
Question: Advice to others?
Heather: “Always help, even if you are not sure how. There is always a way. I will say don’t do it for the recognition and don’t do it to gloat or show off. It’s totally okay to be proud and enjoy the feeling while remaining humble. You would be surprised how easy it is to help someone. Go for it! And remember don’t worry about posting it, sharing it, do it from the heart first.”