Kalamazoo community keeps teachers, students stocked with essentials through KPS Supply Closet

Angee McCormick has been involved with Kalamazoo Public Schools for a long time — she has four children ranging in age from 31 to 13.

 One of her biggest concerns has always been for the teachers and making sure they have the tools they need to help their students. So, when she was a parent at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary, she organized a supply closet of donated goods that teachers could tap whenever they needed things like tissues, dry erase markers, and paper.

“I just didn’t want to see teachers have to pay for things out of their own pockets,” McCormick said.

This summer when she was volunteering to help with meal distribution at Parkwood-Upjohn, she had the chance to see how eager families were to receive school supplies when they stopped at the lunch site.

Both experiences inspired her to start the KPS Supply Closet, a community effort to collect and distribute school supplies across the district. Through the community volunteer group supplies are being collected at more than 20 sites around the city and on an Amazon wish list.

Businesses across Kalamazoo collect donatons for the KPS Supply Closet.Community members can also contribute gift cards. No cash donations are being accepted.

“My biggest thing is I want people to look out for each other,” McCormick said. “Right now, everyone needs to look out for each other. Some might be too proud to reach out for help, but we need to make sure everyone is on as level a playing field as possible.”

The response has been tremendous, said Lynn Chio, a KPS employee who has been helping organize the KPS Supply Closet.

“I am always in awe of how the community will rally for important causes,” Chio said. “In these uncertain times and with all of the struggles everyone is going through — whether it’s being stuck in the house or a decrease in income or someone being sick — people still find a way to be generous with their time or their money. I think that’s a testimony to Kalamazoo.”

McCormick said she owes a debt of gratitude to Chio and the other volunteers who have helped make the effort a success. There are dozens, but she’s especially thankful for Joe Snyder, owner of Salut Market; Lesa Brenner, who has organized the Amazon wish list; Tina Jackson at Milwood Magnet School, who is serving as a liaison with staff; Susan and Tim Brady, who have set up the email and will be handling inventory, and Minchie Brockman, who is organizing the totes at drop-off sites.

Popular items when she ran the Parkwood supply closet included tissues, dry erase markers, paper towels, pads of paper, clay, and crayons. Those are still important, but there are some new needs in the online environment. They include headphones, personal white boards, masks, flashcards, and tri-fold cardboard screens to help children create private study spaces. She anticipates the list will evolve as staff get settled into the online environment and see what the students need.

The KPS Supply Closet is not taking requests for supplies from families. All donations are being funneled through the teachers.

Teachers can request supplies for their use, and they are helping identify students who may need assistance. Families can reach out for help through their teachers. Volunteers are then delivering the supplies.

How you can help

There are three ways to donate to the KPS Supply Closet:
1. Drop off supplies in one of the black and yellow, donation tote boxes located around the community. Boxes can be found at:
Salut Market; Treat Street; Rocket Fizz; Vine Street Neighborhood
Association; Kay Jewelers in The Crossroads mall; Nisker’s Chargrill;
Midtown Fresh; Uncle Ernie’s; Victorian Bakery; Chau Haus; Pop City Popcorn; Kalamazoo Farmers Market; Identities Salon; Michelle’s on Gull Road; LFG; Kelvin & Co.; Civic Coffee House; Cole Nissan; Advantage Roofing; KaZoopy’s on West Main; and at various Food Truck Rallies.

2. Donations of gift cards may be sent to KPS Supply Closet, P.O. Box 19364, Kalamazoo, MI 49009.

3. Donations can be made through the group’s Amazon
wish list here at t.ly/wBrr.
For up-to-date information about needs and collection sites, visit the Friends of the KPS Supply Closet on Facebook.

The KPS Supply Closet has set up a storage site at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School.

The KPS Supply Closet is collecting school supplies such as these for distribution to teachers and students throughout the district.
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