Local Students Organize Free Store Donation Drive 

 

The need for food and hygiene essentials is still high in Beverly/Morgan Park; so many more people have been in need of these items since the COVID-19 pandemic began and many lost their jobs.  

Demonstrating a desire to help, five local Chicago Public Schools are coordinating a student-led donation drive to benefit the Free Stores organized by the 19th Ward Mutual Aid. Student leaders from Barnard, Clissold, Kellogg, Sutherland, and Vanderpoel elementary schools are taking charge to help others in our community. The donation drive begins on Mon., Apr. 19 and will continue through the end of May.  

The 19th Ward Mutual Aid partners with Turpin Cares, Morgan Park Presbyterian Church and BAPA to bring two Free Stores to community residents. The hygiene/first aid products Free Store operates on the first Saturday of each month,10 to11 a.m., BAPA Community Room, 11109 S. Longwood Dr. Free food is distributed each Wednesday,3 to 6 p.m., Morgan Park Presbyterian Church parking lot, 11052 S. Longwood Dr. 

Cory Overstreet, principal of Kellogg School, worked with student council representatives who had wanted to do a food drive at Thanksgiving. Since CPS students were fully remote at the time, it wasn’t possible to tackle a donation drive. “Now that many of our kids are back in school, they brought up the idea of a food drive again,” Overstreet said. “I asked Kellogg’s student council if they would like to collaborate with other area schools, and they immediately said yes.” 

Overstreet works closely with the principals at Barnard, Clissold, Sutherland, and Vanderpoel as they all collaborate on their work on diversity and equity. The principals share a close relationship and are always looking for ways to partner.  

The student representatives from each school met for the first time virtually in March to begin planning the donation drive.  

“Principal Valente (of Barnard School) opened a Google doc and the kids just began filling in action items,” Overstreet said. “They are really savvy with social media and are already planning to create TikTok ads, flyers, and communicating with the student body at their schools.” 

It was decided to open up the donation drive to anyone in the community, not just the students at their respective schools. They are currently planning how to collect the donations and get the word out. 

“While all of our schools have a service learning component, there is also a presence in each school of service and giving back,” Overstreet said. “It’s cool to see our students coordinating something on this scale and we hope it’s something we do going forward.” 

Working together are Chad Harrison and Laila Black, 8th grade representatives from Barnard; Loren Richardson and Xoie Alston, 8th grade representatives from Vanderpoel; and Rani Barnes, a 7th grader, and Morgan Puchalski, an 8th grader, from Kellogg. Sutherland and Clissold students will join the project in April after spring break.  

To find out how to get involved, keep an eye on the social media pages and newsletters of all five schools. “The students are creating a big level of excitement and figuring out different ways to get the word out to ensure they make a big impact,” Overstreet said.  

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