Haley’s legacy included teaching grants for employees

Date Published: 
August 29, 2014

Coastal Point • Submitted : Matt Haley poses with employees that are teachers after he announced that they would be given $500 per year to help the teachers make sure their students have all the necessary school supplies they need.Coastal Point • Submitted : Matt Haley poses with employees that are teachers after he announced that they would be given $500 per year to help the teachers make sure their students have all the necessary school supplies they need.Many teachers have reached into their own pockets for the benefit of students, whether for school supplies or another need. Restaurateur Matt Haley wanted to ease that pressure and did so recently with a $500 grant for each of his 15 employees who teach during the year.

Haley, who was killed as the result of a motorcycle crash while on a humanitarian mission in India on Monday, Aug. 18, had recently announced the Matt Haley Companies’ (MHC’s) Teacher Fund, designed to support all teachers who work part- or full-time for MHC.

“Any student of a teacher that works with us is a student of ours. No underprivileged student will ever not be prepared with school supplies again. We commit to supporting our students with supplies so the teachers will not have to,” Haley said in announcing the effort earlier this summer.

“The aim of the fund is to ensure children in the classrooms of our teachers are fully funded and have the supplies and resources to be successful,” explained MHC President Scott Kammerer. “If somebody needs a pair of shoes, backpack, pencils, crayons…”

This is the first Teacher Fund, but it likely won’t be the last for MHC’s teachers. Asked if such a program would entice more teachers to take jobs within the Haley companies, Kammerer said, “I hope so!”

“I think companies that are successful should look within their own families to support [them]. Our family was supported by someone giving Matt Haley a chance. It’s in the DNA of our company to pay it forward.”

Kammerer said Haley occasionally distributed on-the-spot cash bonuses when he visited his restaurants. When one employee hesitated to accept the money, Haley encouraged her to “pay it forward.” When she purchased a stack of school supplies with that bonus, Haley was inspired to reach out to all his teacher-employees.

“Matt called all the teachers together, and he made the announcement … that he wanted to step up to the plate so that teachers didn’t have to spend their money on children in their classroom,” Kammerer had said prior to last Monday’s accident. “He sees the children [as] the future.”

As she was about to begin the new school year teaching at Cape Henlopen High School, Bridget Marshall said the teachers were floored by the announcement. She has worked seven summers at Lupo di Mare in Rehoboth Beach.

“It was unbelievable. It’s so generous for the company to just continually give back to the community and the people who work for him,” Marshall said of Haley. “He wanted to support us for doing what we do for the community.”

To access the grants, the teacher-employees can just submit a request form, even bi-weekly, to draw from their $500 allotments.

“It can be as simple as binders and paper and pencils,” Marshall said. “And by the end of the year, the need is exponential. … I have 160 students, and half of them need binders.”

Marshall’s high-schoolers don’t need a complex array of supplies, but their elementary school counterparts need colored pencils, glue sticks, markers and more.

The establishment of the Teacher Fund only brushed the surface of the work Haley had done worldwide, earning him honors as the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Humanitarian of the Year.

“Our foundation honored Matt this year not only for his compassion and commitment to helping disadvantaged children and families locally in Delaware, but also for dedicating his time and resources to help people around the world,” said JBF president Susan Ungaro last week in a memorial piece published on the foundation’s website.