PORTLAND — Ruth’s Reusable Resources, a Portland nonprofit organization that transfers supplies from businesses to classrooms, will celebrate 20 years in the community this June. An event will be held on June 20 to mark the anniversary, thank supporters and raise both awareness and funds to support future growth.

In 1994, Scarborough housewife Ruth Libby began an odyssey that now is measured in millions of pounds of materials diverted from Maine landfills. Ruth’s Reusable Resources (3R’s) has transferred furniture, paper, books, office/school supplies, computers and much more to schools and nonprofit agencies.

The central concept is a teacher store: a warehouse stacked high with school supplies – used and new – donated by local businesses including corporate offices and retailers. When individual schools or districts buy annual memberships to 3R’s for as little as $3 per student, their teachers can shop at the store for free all year long. Libby estimates that on each shopping trip, most teachers bring at least $600 worth of supplies back to their classrooms.

When school budgets are tight, the store fills a meaningful gap. And as the gap has expanded over the past 20 years, so has 3R’s operation. In 2007, the teacher store moved from its former location at the Bessey School in Scarborough to its current 28,000-square-foot space on Blueberry Road in Portland. The building includes offices, loading docks, a 7,000-square-foot teacher store and a smaller public store frequented by artists, crafters and parents of creative kids. The location also provides easy access to EcoMaine, where unsalvageable materials are sent for recycling.

According to Libby, what began as an endeavor to affordably get supplies into the hands of teachers and students has become much more over the past two decades. Beyond its positive impact on Maine schools and the environment, the organization also provides meaningful volunteer opportunities for community members, including confidence-boosting, skill-building work for teens, young adults and people with disabilities.

“This has just grown and grown in ways I never imagined in the beginning – and now I see so many ways that we can grow it even more,” said Libby. “The event in June will be a toast to what we’ve done so far, and will mark the start of our next chapter.”

For more information, visit www.ruths.org.

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