After people selected items from the food pantry at Brownstown Central High School, they had one final stop.
At the front end of a table, they were greeted by a student in the iGrad program smiling as they handed them a bag full of shampoo, body wash, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant and combs.
Then they could select another hygiene item from the other end of the table, and another student was there to say “Have a nice day” as they headed out of the school building to go home.
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“Thank you so much,” “God bless” and “Oh, that’s so nice” were heard from the recipients.
Not only did they benefit from the kind gesture, but the students’ day was made because they made a difference.
“I like just knowing that we’re helping them and seeing how happy it makes them,” freshman Mitchell McCormick said.
When the signup sheet to help with the project was posted in the iGrad room, McCormick was the first one to sign his name.
“I was happy to help,” he said. “I love volunteering. I don’t get to do it much, and it makes me happy to see everybody do it, and I can tell everybody here is happy to help.”
Kate Shoemaker and Terrye Davidson, who lead the school’s iGrad program, didn’t make it a requirement for the students to help, but they all signed up.
“I would have never really volunteered like this without iGrad,” McCormick said.
Senior Macy Bailey also helped when the iGrad program first did the project in December 2016.
“It was just one thing that I’ve never done in my life,” she said. “I had never volunteered for anything, and to be able to do that for the first time was amazing. I’m glad that they let us help because I’ve always been someone that wants to help people.”
Once again, she saw a lot of smiles and heard a lot of thank-yous from the pantry clients.
“I’m not in touch with anybody that does volunteering in town, so to be able to do this while we’re in school is a good opportunity for us,” Bailey said.
Shoemaker said they decided to do the project again because of the positive feedback from students the first time.
“While they were doing it, they just felt good about it because we asked them the next day, ‘So what did you think?’ and they were like, ‘We felt really good giving,’ even though they said, ‘It wasn’t something that we gave. We just helped, and it felt great,'” she said.
Then at the beginning of this past school year, students asked her about doing the project again, and they marked it on the calendar for the second Monday in May.
In March, they began accepting donations of hygiene products. Donations came in from high school staff members, Tri Kappa sorority in Brownstown and other members of the community.
They wound up with enough items to fill 60 bags.
“I think that the Brownstown community is very generous,” Davidson said.
A week before the pantry day, students organized the items on tables in the iGrad room. That allowed Shoemaker to see if more items were needed, and she said not much else had to be purchased.
“Each period, I gave them an amount of bags, so everybody participated,” she said. “They didn’t have to if they didn’t want to, but they all did.”
Each bag also contained a note that said “Caring about people in our community, the BCHS iGrad program” to let the recipient know who helped with the project.
“Many of our kids aren’t in extracurricular things that provide this kind of an opportunity, so it’s a great chance for them to get that positive feeling,” Davidson said. “I think that it’s important for them to feel a part of the community, and if you don’t do something like this, you don’t have that feeling, so I think it gives them that intrinsic feeling of not just giving back, but now, they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Shoemaker said it allows her to see the students outside of the school setting.
“Getting to be a part of the community and doing something other than schoolwork is kind of getting to know them in a different way, as well, so that helps our relationship in the iGrad room and between each other,” she said. “A lot of them don’t hang out together after school, and for the few that are here, they get to know each other a little bit more and develop a relationship.”
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With construction continuing this summer at Brownstown Central High School, the food pantry will be moved to Brownstown Christian Church, 703 W. Spring St.
Pantry days will be from 4 to 6 p.m. June 11 and July 9.
Then starting in August, it will be from 4 to 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the high school, 500 N. Elm St.