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Community celebrate Union County teachers and staff with a teacher appreciation drive

With a huge show of community support and donations, hundreds of gift bags were given to teachers, bus drivers, and school staff.

MONROE, N.C. — A heartwarming story out of Monroe: the community came together in a big way to celebrate teachers and school staff. Of all the pandemic’s frontline heroes, teachers may be among the most overlooked.

“They are the ones that are out there. Schooling our children for us, you know, putting their lives on the line,” said a Monroe-area mom. “I think they were just overdue a burst of we see you we know you're working hard and we appreciate you.”

So Ulunda Baker, alongside Monroe Councilwoman Angelia James decided to do just that.

With a huge show of community support and donations, they put together hundreds of gift bags to hand out to teachers, bus drivers, and school staff.

“We formed like kind of a social distance line and the teachers came through and as they were coming through, they just could not believe just how excited and supportive and thankful you were for them,” Baker said.

RELATED: Some Union County Public School employees skipping ahead and getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Baker said they’d expected maybe 200 or 300 teachers but planned for more just in case. And good thing, because many more showed up.

“We ended up with 650 bags handed out it. Believe it is one of the largest if not the largest, countywide teacher appreciation outreach that has ever happened,” Baker said. “I think it just all came together for them in the line. And some of them were just in tears as they came through the line. They were overjoyed”

She said the goal was to show teachers and school staff just how appreciated they are.

“It was just so important to show them, that we see them, we appreciate them, we love them, we can't do this without them," Baker said. "And we really want it to just show them that that they're important to how we're able to get through this pandemic right now.”

This was so much more than goodie bags and trinkets -- what really brought tears to hundreds of masked-but-clearly-smiling-faces was being seen, heard, and appreciated. 

RELATED: CMS says they're ready for students to return to in-person learning in February

“If I had to speak to each and every one of them, I would say never forget you're why: why you became an educator," Baker said. "And that 'Why' is still important, whether or not it's in a remote environment, or in person, you are still impacting and changing the lives of children all over this country. So that's to me, that's the message that I would send them is we see you. We appreciate you and we love you.”

The group is planning more events in the coming weeks. You can support and follow them on Facebook at "Union County NC Education Appreciation."