Look for the Helpers

It was something offered to calm children during times of catastrophe and most of us have probably heard the famous quote from Mr. Rogers.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of “disaster”, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers

It’s a great piece of advice and definitely not surprising that it has stood the test of time. Finding the helpers and even joining them, offers each of us hope in times of chaos and uncertainty.

When I look around our community, I’m beyond proud to see Jenison Public School teachers, staff, coaches and even students showing up to support others in a variety of ways.

I’m thankful for all the efforts we are already witnessing. This is uniting us in ways that we don’t always see and bringing hope and joy in a new way. There are many ways to be neighbors and helpers, here are some local examples I’d like to share with you.

I’d also like to extend an invitation, how might you join the helpers? Possibly make donations, support small businesses, finding a way to pay-it-forward, or even just extending an encouraging word or smile of support to a fellow shopper or hard working essential employee. We’re all in this together and together we’ll make it through this.

COMMUNITY FOOD DISTRIBUTION SERVERS:

Sunrise Ministries is a local church in the heart of the Jenison Public School district. In response to the school closure and the expected effects COVID-19 would eventually have on families, they opened their doors as a drive-thru food/personal care distribution site.

They started with their first distribution on March 16 serving 41 families and have seen an exorbitant increase in demand on a weekly basis. They are preparing to serve 750 families in the coming week. A large amount of the volunteers are JPS employees. Sunrise Ministries Pastor, Dan Fisher has really appreciated their help and he is witnessing first hand the passionate, hardworking individuals our students get to see in their classrooms. It’s so exciting to have each one of our buildings represented by the caring hands that are packing and distributing these necessities to our neighbors in and outside of our immediate community.

Volunteers spend hours sorting donations and packing bags in preparation for the Monday and Wednesday distribution nights. Even though many of the teacher volunteers are back to the books with their students while operating their online learning schedules, they have remained committed to their helper role. Bursley First grade teacher, Rhonda Johnson; Rosewood First grade teacher, Kelly Osterink and El Puente Second grade teacher, Jenna Kragt were part of the crew that were busy serving this week. Spanish speaking volunteers have been incredibly helpful in the last few weeks.

The line for the drive-thru distribution at Sunrise Ministries is sometimes full a few hours before they even open. This week they even needed to discontinue services early due to running out of items to distribute.

As the need continues to increase, Sunrise Ministries relies on donations from companies and individuals to keep their food bank running. Donations dropped off to Sunrise Ministries directly are most appreciated!  If you are able to do so, please consider donating to help. Below is the list of items that are needed and the location where they can be dropped.  


STUDENT HAND2HAND MINISTRY SERVICES:


There is another crew of volunteers assisting the families that are part of Hand2Hand Ministries. Hand2hand partners churches with schools to provide food for students facing weekend hunger. This is an amazing program that has worked with Jenison Public Schools for years, and has proven an unwavering commitment to their families – through debilitating snow storms and now a global pandemic. However, the distribution model of their service is through the school buildings. This left a number of families in the position of not being able to get their meals. Starting day 1 of the COVID-19 school closure, Jenison teachers filled that gap and loaded up their own vehicles to make deliveries. Now a few weeks later, the supporting churches as well as the JPS teachers are delivering weekday meals and weekend meal kits to over 50 families. This is an exciting example of resources being pooled and collaboration at its finest. We are so thankful for these organizations remaining committed to the students they are supporting right here in our own community.


FRONTLINE HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS AND 3D PRINTERS:

Laurie is a busy mom with 3 children attending Jenison International Academy. She is also a very essential frontline medical worker at a local hospital. Feeling the exhaustion of these uncertain times alongside tiring, long shifts, Laurie liked the idea of making things at work as comfortable as possible. There was also the real possibility of increased exposure to germs through irritated skin from wearing a face mask all day. She had heard about 3D printed plastic straps that were created to hook the mask straps as opposed to wearing them around the ears all day long. Laurie reached out to Mrs. Krista Osterberg, Principal of Jenison International Academy for help. Unfortunately, during the stay-at-home order, the school building was off limits – which meant the 3D printers that are part of the JIA STEM and Engineering programs were unavailable as well. Mrs. Osterberg connected Laurie with another JIA family who owns a 3D printer. The family was happy to use their supplies to print a few dozen mask straps for Laurie, her colleagues and some of her family members who are also hospital workers. Simple acts of kindness make us big helpers!


8 YEAR OLD BAKERS:

Everleigh Schuster is a hard worker with a big heart! As schools closed due to the Corona virus, some grocery staples also started to dwindle. This Pinewood 3rd grader noticed a problem and wanted to help. Before the official stay-at-home directive had been given, she was baking bread with her grandma, Mary Mapes almost daily. They were willing to bake bread for anyone who needed it. Click here to watch the story.

Following her bread efforts, Evy turned her attention back to the veggie seedlings she had been preparing for her spring/summer veggie stand.

She hopes to sell veggies and gift excess food and seedlings to help others start growing their own food. Growing and giving back is something Evy has been working for since she was 4 years old! Thank you Everleigh for stepping up and being a great example to our community!


DEDICATED SCIENTISTS:

On a grander scale, very exciting possibilities are being worked on in response to the COVID-19 virus, one of which is being worked on by a Jenison Alumna. You make us proud, Deborah Heydenburg Fuller (Class of 1982) – and we are pulling for you and your team! Click here to watch the interview.

Small change adds up BIG

As I look forward to spending time with my family this Thanksgiving weekend, it’s very easy to be thankful for all I have been blessed with. Today, I am also reflecting on a commitment to make one small choice daily; to live with an attitude of gratitude in all circumstances. I have been encouraged by the efforts of our students this month, joining together through many small initiatives to make a very big difference.
Our annual change fundraiser “Your Change Can Change Hunger” began in 1998 and is something the kids look forward to each year. After a 15 year partnership with another food pantry in West Michigan, the focus shifted to a more local organization. Hand2Hand partners with local churches and schools to provide a backpack filled with supplemental food that bridges the gap of weekend hunger. When students became aware that their change was going to help kids in their own school district, possibly even their own building – giving sharply increased. The fervor with which students wanted to take care of their own is so inspiring!

 

YCCCH Winning Class

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The high school students conducted a pop can drive, lunch time raffle ticket sales, hosted a movie showing with drinks and snacks for sale, promoted general collection competitions between classes, sold sodas and Post Family Farm donuts.

The Junior High had an another amazing year raising money through many avenues as well. Students sold coffee, hot chocolate, stickers and gelato. Classes thrived off of competing against one another, and setting personal classroom goals. Students and staff members worked hard at making each goal happen, and we believe they succeeded in many ways.

Competition polls with two containers were popular for students to express their preferences: Coke or Pepsi, Dog or Cat. Elementary class competitions brought an exciting pizza party or pajama day to the winning classroom.

They are always so creative and it’s such a positive environment during this fundraiser. Students are so generous with their time and money knowing how it is helping right here in their community. 

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Our annual contribution drive recently wrapped up with yet another record breaking year! I’m happy to say our students, staff and families have done it again … raising a record $27,567.79 during this year’s 22nd Annual “Your Change Can Change Hunger” fundraiser!!

It is both exciting and humbling to realize that since the inception of YCCCH here in Jenison, our students, staff and families have raised just over a quarter of a million dollars to fight hunger!! Donations have reached over $141,000 specifically for local students through Hand2Hand since 2013. What a wonderful community we live in! Small change can add up big and…Your Change really CAN Change Hunger!

Thank you so much to each and every one of our Jenison families for your part in keeping this wonderful tradition alive and growing to bless our kids.

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Wild Winter Week

January 2019 was a stark contrast to the mild and snowless December we recently experienced – and it was probably the most in-depth meteorology lesson this generation of students has ever experienced. Words like polar vortex, lake effect, arctic blast, and snow squall paved the way for a Governor issued “State of Emergency” for the lower peninsula!

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While it looked like a beautiful Winter Wonderland outside our windows, those conditions always cause concern for the safety of our students and staff. Even after the snow somewhat calmed by midweek, the bitter cold was still a force to be reckoned with. Windchill temperatures were the coldest on record since 1994 rendering the use of ice-melt salt ineffective. This turned out to be the perfect storm of “inclement weather”, thus keeping us home for a whole week! 

Now, as I reflect on a difficult weather week, and even as we sit in the midst of more delays this week, I wanted to share that I’m so proud of the community that Jenison is, even when the busses aren’t running.

Snow Day Learning

Just because school wasn’t open, doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. Many of our dedicated teachers took to social media to interact with students and read books to them; encouraging them to sharpen their brains with learning while on snow break. Students had a lot of fun seeing their teachers at home with their own kids, still being teachers! With a few breaks in the weather, some even gathered for impromptu reading time! A ‘snowpocalypse’ can’t even stop our tremendous staff!

Jenison Students and Teachers keep the brainpower going during a long snowy break!

Jenison students and teachers stay cozy while keeping the brain power going!

 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Jenison Teacher and Coach, Kelly Krepps is an excellent role model and consistently sets the bar high for our students. Coach Krepps put a call out to his athletes on Twitter, challenging them to get outside and shovel a neighbor’s driveway and sidewalks. Insisting they do not accept payment; unless of course they were being paid in sincere gratitude and maybe hot chocolate. Way to think outside yourself, Jenison Wrestlers!

While many squeal with excitement at the prospect of an unexpected day off school, 30415482_1783281571691849_4282489301717136922_nthere are families in our community that rely on school meals for daily nutrition. On the first day of the break, Hand2Hand founder and Executive Director, Chari Honderd put out a call on social media and through a television interview for those who may need help to get through the week. 

Rachael Postle-Brown, the principal of our Pinewood Elementary School was one of the volunteers who hand delivered bags of food. 

“All of the families were very grateful and thanked me. It was an adventure. I got stuck in one family’s driveway and the Dad came out to help. He took the time to share how much he appreciated the support his family receives from Jenison Public Schools. One of our former elementary students (who is now in high school) saw me from across the street and came out in the cold to help. It was so nice to see him and his character shining through. At the next house, the parents said how much the food was going to help over the weekend. At the final delivery of the day, the student was so excited and thankful that he jumped up and down. I felt blessed to be able to be of service for our families. I want our community partners to know that we are so thankful for all they do for our students. It is so appreciated.” 

We’re so happy to partner with a forward thinking organization and that selfless volunteers were abundant. Over three days during that week, 82 families in the west Michigan area received deliveries of food, hope and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full of Thanks and Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope this day finds you embracing the people and places that fill you up and enhance your life! I am thinking about my loving and supportive wife, terrific children and the blessing of a new grandson! I am also thankful for the supremely talented and committed group of educators I get to work with daily. Not only do they sharpen each other as they strive for academic excellence, they sincerely invest in the heart and character of our students.

This month marks the 21st year that our staff has been encouraging our students to think outside themselves, cultivate true gratitude and give with compassionate hearts through the “Your Change Can Change Hunger” fund drive (YCCCH). That means there have been several graduating classes that have participated every year of their time at JPS. It truly has become a holiday tradition that we all look forward to. Initiated by Susan Hodson, a mom with two elementary daughters that many years ago – it just goes to show, one person can make a big difference.

I’m so proud to share more about this year’s YCCCH fund drive and all the ways our amazing Jenison community is giving back this Thanksgiving!

Kids First Pet Supply Drive

We love to see the generosity of our students combined with a little entrepreneurial spirit! Two sixth grade El Puente students, Grace Roth (left) and Randi Pennington (right) brainstormed and organized a collection for the Harbor Humane Society during the month of October and delivered the donations earlier this month. So inspiring to see our students putting their compassionate hearts to work!

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Grace and Randi, and their KidsFirst classmates collected over 100 pounds of food, dog beds, blankets, a bag full of toys, multiple bags of treats, leashes, and food dishes.

Jenison Parent Liaisons

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Ms. Tracy and Ms. Veldink

The mission of the Jenison Parent Liaison program is: Building bridges between home, school, and community to promote student success for all families of Jenison Public Schools. One tangible way they do that is through organizing collections of things that can be used to support local families.

1) Ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing Ministry. Also, currently collecting snow pants (through the winter season) in partnership with Rosewood Reformed Church. This provides JPS families access to any type of clothing as needs arise. If you would like to donate clothes or snow pants, please drop items to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary.

2) They partner with Mars Hill Bible Church, Fair Haven Ministries, Baldwin Street Christian Reformed Church and Sunrise Ministries to provide Christmas and Thanksgiving Assistance for our families.

3) Now accepting donations for family activities in the area; such as bowling, Rebounderz, movie theatre, etc., to give to families to enjoy special together time over Christmas break. Donations can be brought to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary. 

1st Annual Turkey Trot 5k

An idea led by senior, Max Zuber; the Jenison Men’s Cross Country team hosted the first Jenison Turkey Trot 5k. It was a little more wintry when the race actually took place this past weekend but it was an overall success for their first year. The donation table ended up nearly overflowing and items were delivered to Love Inc.: the Turkey Trot is good for your heart in more ways than one!

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There were over 60 runners of all ages at the first ever Turkey Trot 5k!

Jenison Public Education Foundation

To keep our little ones warm and cozy in the coming months, the Jenison Public Education Foundation conducted a hat, mitten, sock drive at their Expo event on November 3. A donation competition between elementary schools revealed Pinewood as the winner. They won $250 for their school and a school assembly with a magician! Since 1995, JPEF has been enhancing learning environments and funded more than 162 programs valued at over $200,000, for the students of Jenison. 

National Honors Society Thanksgiving Baskets

The NHS members (high school juniors/seniors) organized a Thanksgiving basket program. They donated the items needed for a full thanksgiving meal for 10 Jenison families. They traveled together to deliver the food to each family on November 16.

Jenison High School Thespians – “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”

Of course, the Thespians had fun dressing up and getting into character on Halloween but they also organized an event called “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”. They had another great turnout this year with many donations brought in to keep members of our community fed this holiday season.

Your Change Can Change Hunger (YCCCH) benefiting Hand2Hand

This annual change fundraiser began in 1998 and is something the kids plan for each year. After a 15 year partnership with another food pantry in West Michigan, it shifted to a more local organization. Hand2Hand partners with local churches and schools to provide a backpack filled with supplemental food that bridges the gap of weekend hunger. When students became aware that their change was going to help kids in their own school district, possibly even their own building – giving sharply increased. The fervor with which students wanted to take care of their own is so inspiring! We keep breaking the previous year’s record for giving – and I think we’ll see that again this year.

Coming into the 2018 fund drive, JPS students have raised over $196,000 since 1998 – nearly half of that had been given in the last 5 years! While the final totals are still being counted, I think we can quite confidently say that we will pass the $200,000 mark this year! That’s amazing! Your Change really CAN Change Hunger!

Thank you so much Jenison students and families!

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ECC: Introducing our youngest Wildcats to this awesome and impactful tradition.

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El Puente students show off their own collection box. Excelente!

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Bauerwood Elementary students excited to hear the final count for the district!

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Pinewood Elementary Student Council with their cash donation.

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Rosewood 5th graders proudly show off their school’s contribution of over $1,700 this year!

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The Sandy Hill third graders surpassed their collection goal on the last day of the change drive. They raised over $150 on Friday alone so Mr. Mosher took some pies to the face!

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Bursley kids excited to give back to others.

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Junior High Students with a hefty donation to YCCCH! When the final count is confirmed, the JH hopes to break their current school record of over $10,000 dollars collected. It definitely seems within their grasp!  Many students have come up with creative collection ideas such as coffee/hot chocolate sales and candy & pop sales. Good old fashion  competitions against other classes in the building have really kept the excitement high!

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JH Students paid $1.00 towards YCCCH to play in the gym for 1 hour before school.

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The High Schoolers also had unique fundraising opportunities: here they are selling pizza at lunch time as a fundraiser for YCCCH.

If you would like to join Jenison Students by supporting the work of Hand2Hand, please visit their website for more information about how to get involved.

 

Sandy Hill Students Work to Ease Hunger in Jenison!

Ten years ago this October, Cheri Honderd realized that some kids in Jenison didn’t have enough food to eat, especially on the weekends.

Drawing on her experience as a Kids Hope Director, Cheri knew that through school and community partnerships, something could be changed. Cheri and her friends at a local church decided to take action and – starting right here at Sandy Hill – nineteen students were given a bag of food for the weekends, privately placed in their backpacks during the school day and Hand2Hand Ministries was born.

“The nation was going through a recession and it was impacting her community. For the first time in decades the city of Jenison, along with neighboring communities, was facing a hunger crisis. Many former middle-income families were not able to feed their own children. The number of free or reduced lunch participants in one school district went from 5 to 30 percent in one year.” When Cheri learned that children in her local schools were hungry, it brought back painful memories of her own childhood when her parents struggled for employment.

Deanne Messinger, Cailey Mulder, Cheri Honderd, Jenny van Biljon, Myra Baine, Samantha Inman

Those nineteen students at Sandy Hill paved the way for the nearly 4,900 students in 8 counties and 145 schools across West Michigan to be fed all weekend and better prepared for their school week!

This fall the students at Sandy Hill gave back to Hand2Hand by raising money through their annual Change 2 Change Hunger campaign [which takes places across the district]. The money raised through this initiative at Sandy Hill was enough to purchase 500 lunches that were packed by Kindergartners and their 4th grade buddies.

Kindergarten teacher, Myra Baine says, “It’s neat to see the program come full circle like this. There is local, childhood hunger in Jenison and we are trying to meet that need.”

Packing lunches is not the end of this project! Mrs Baine secured an additional $250 grant from the Ottawa Area ISD to round out their project-based learning project. “As a class we will collaborate four more times [4th and K] to engage in lessons to help solve a real world problem.  During these lessons students will work in small groups to  create a plan and model/present to an authentic audience.” Their audience will consist of representatives from United Bank and Chapel Pointe Church who will hear the students’ proposal to use their parking lots as part of the potential solution to the next phase! [Keep an eye out for more details on this soon!]

The students have been eager to learn how they can help and participate in problem-solving and learning lifelong relational skills. “The reaction to this problem-based learning from our students is enthusiasm, excitement and desire to do their best by working together with a cross age learning environment. In my Kindergarten class, the ability to work together is a big emphasis this year.  Working with others who may or may not agree with you to get a concrete solution is something we work on, on a daily basis.  We work on it in our social groups during recess and free choice time and we also work on it during our academic times in reading and math groups.”

“The opportunity to have these experiences in a classroom setting is so valuable as they go out in the real world and become life long learners.  To have students start a fire in themselves to know they have power. I believe giving them experiences early and knowing that even at the young age of five and six they can make a difference and help someone else is amazing.”

You can even check out the story on Wood TV!

Thank you to our wonderful teachers for not only organizing such a powerful experience for our students, but involving them in solution-focused learning! They will see their worlds a little differently now and know they can be part of the solution! Thank you, Hand2Hand, for bringing real change to our community and empowering our learners!

 

 

Jenison Supports Hand2Hand

Jenison Junior and Senior Highs are pleased to kick off their fall fundraiser to benefit “Hand2Hand”, a local non-profit organization that partners with schools and churches to provide food for qualifying families.

An outgrowth of Fair Haven Ministries, Hand2Hand works with schools to identify students whose families are not able to provide regular, healthy eating over the weekend when school lunch programs are not available. Students are given the opportunity to confidentially sign up to receive a backpack of food intended to last throughout the weekend. Those backpacks are distributed discretely by the school principal while students are in class. Many of our own Jenison students already benefit from this program!

Hand2Hand’s website shares testimonies from anonymous teachers and students that highlight the impact of this simple, yet life-changing, idea:

“I heard some commotion outside of my room so I looked outside my classroom and saw a 1st grader holding his bag of food up, shouting, ‘It’s a miracle!’ He then proceeded to show all of his friends the food he received for the weekend.”  – teacher [source]

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If stories like this touch your heart and you’d like to help us kickstart our involvement with Hand2Hand, we invite you to join us at this Friday’s football game where you will have the opportunity to donate to this worthy cause. 

We hope you’ll ‘join hands’ with us so that more of our students can look forward to a weekend of healthy eating. Your concern can literally impact the well-being of a child in our district!