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Free school pantry provides in-need Holland families with winter clothes, more

By newadmin / Published on Sunday, 08 Jan 2023 14:10 PM / No Comments / 5 views

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HOLLAND, MI – A school-based pantry in Holland is providing families in need with free winter clothes, school supplies, personal hygiene products and more, thanks to donations from the community.

The Power H Shop, located in Holland Public Schools’ Longfellow Elementary School, opens once a month for students and families who are experiencing a crisis or financial hardship, allowing them to shop for essential day-to-day items at no cost.

The store is a collaboration between Holland Public Schools, Ottawa Community Schools Network (OCSN) and the Pathways to Potential Program from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, according to a statement from the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District.

Servicing 21 schools across seven districts in Ottawa County, the OCSN is a wraparound services network that uses the “community schools” model to make school buildings a local hub where families can get connected to resources and support services from around their community.

By providing families with essential supplies they might not be able to afford, the Power H Shop helps students focus on reaching their full potential in the classroom, said Lauren Gray, OCSN Coordinator for Holland High School.

“Being able to support an HPS family with free household items in a dignified retail setting helps offset their monthly costs, alleviates the financial stress many of our families face, and creates a better opportunity for students to thrive in a school environment,” Gray said in a statement.

All the products found in the shop are donated by individual donors, local businesses and community organizations, according to the news release. The shop is stocked with things like school supplies, backpacks, cleaning supplies, seasonal clothing including winter coats and boots, and personal hygiene products.

The shop is open to any family of a Holland Public Schools student, district officials told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press. The shop first launched in October 2022 and is open once a month.

Holland Superintendent Nick Cassidy said the resource is hugely beneficial to many families in his district.

“It is not realistic to believe a student will learn to the best of their ability, if their family is struggling to provide shoes, clothing, school supplies, or other household items,” Cassidy said in a statement to MLive. “That’s why the Power H Shop is such a great asset for families who attend HPS.”

The store also demonstrates the power of partnerships between communities and their local schools, the superintendent said.

“This is another great example of the positive that can happen for an entire city when everyone comes together to invest in public schools,” Cassidy said.

Mallory Timmer, OCSN Coordinator for Holland West Elementary School, said the free pantry would not be possible without the support of community partners.

“It’s so encouraging to our team, to see that not only our group is seeing the need our community has, but our community itself is wanting to step up and help,” Timmer said.

Last month, one community partner stepped up to donate dozens of Christmas trees and decorations to the shop to help spread holiday cheer to families in need.

Sue Woodward, the founder of “David’s Sparks of Joy”, heard about the Power H Shop and was inspired by what they were doing, according to the news release. “David’s Sparks of Joy” was named after her late son, who loved Christmas.

Woodward donated artificial Christmas trees, ornaments, toppers, stockings, tree skirts and lights to the shop. Because of Woodward’s donation, 32 families left the Power H Shop in December with a free Christmas tree and trimmings to brighten their homes during the holidays, offcials said.

“I was so impressed by how HPS is helping out their families I knew this is the place I wanted to give away my trees,” Woodward said in a prepared statement.

Gray said the donation helped showed how the Power H shop can be a “big blessing” for families.

“One family told me they were so excited to finally have a Christmas tree,” Gray said.

Upcoming Power H Shop days and hours will be updated on the district’s website. Donations to the Power H Shop can be made through the organization’s Amazon wishlist.

The shop will be open from 4:30-6 p.m. on Jan. 12 and Feb. 2.

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