FARMINGTON – Mt. Blue High School Employability Skills teacher, Kyle Minear, has used generous donations from members of the community to start the Free Store on campus.
The Free Store is open to students and staff for shopping while the Foster CTE Center’s Employability Skills students manage it. In this environment, students get to practice soft skills like communication, attention to detail and teamwork.
“When the students stock and tidy the Free Store, they are working together to create a clean and inviting space for customers to shop for items that they need without judgment,” Minear said.
Available at the Free Store is a variety of different items to fulfill needs, including shoes, boots, hats, gloves, jackets, and every other item of clothing imaginable as well as toiletries and school supplies.
“My goal this year was to create opportunities for students to independently meet their needs, whether they be clothing, shoes, toiletries, or food insecurities,” Minear said.
With the Free Store and a goal to create these opportunities came the expansion of the MBC Food Pantry.
“While MBC has always had a storage space stocked with snacks, it was not readily available for easy student access,” Minear said. “This spring, together with JMG, who was awarded a Full Plates, Full Potential grant, we purchased shelving and shelf-stable goods so that students could “shop” without having to ask permission first. Our hope is that this creates a more caring and supportive campus environment for students to feel equal and empowered,” he added.
In addition to the grant received by JMG specialist Matt Reynolds, the collaborative effort was joined by Life Skills students and custodial staff who redeem bottles to stock the shelves.
“They have always done an amazing job keeping the food closet stocked; we just took an extra step this year by creating a more accessible space,” Minear said. “Together, we have stocked the new shelves and sent backpacks full of food home with students as needed.”
Minear feels that the Free Store and expansion of the pantry have been successful in their goals of meeting needs and creating judgment-free, independent opportunities. The expansion has also led to new ideas that help meet more than just basic needs.
“I know students have been accessing both the Free Store and the pantry which makes me incredibly happy. Matt and I have been collaborating all year to identify and break down barriers to food access on our campus,” Minear said. “We have initiated many new ideas such as ‘birthday backpacks’ that are filled with cake mix, frosting, candles, and a small gift to provide to each district elementary school in case they know of a student in need. Our own students are benefiting immensely from being a part of these initiatives as they are making a real, impactful difference in so many lives.”
Minear just received a grant to fund purchasing better lighting, a mirror and additional shelving for the Free Store. The Free Store is currently open for donations, and anyone interested in making a contribution can call her at 778-3562.