‘This is an example of Rockford students giving outside of their community’
“What did you do on your summer vacation?” This ageless question can be answered unexpectedly by two Rockford students and a host of their classmates. They knocked on over 5,000 doors asking for a small donation for underprivileged kids and ended up with more than $10,000 worth of school supplies.
It started as the vision of one Rockford High School senior, John Malley, now attending Notre Dame University. He envisioned donating school supplies to the attendees of the Grand Rapids Boys and Girls Club, a school which works with the Grand Rapids Police Department to help underprivileged or at-risk students.
When Malley graduated and left the area, his sister Megan Malley thought the project so worthy that she took up the cause, joined by friend Alison Lang. Today, because of their efforts, there is a new school-sanctioned club in the Rockford district with 21 students working on the cause and with a whopping donation of over 16,000 individual school supplies donated to the Boys and Girls Club.
Advisor Marcy Mayle, a teacher at the Rockford Freshman Center, is the overseeing adult of the club, but admits she doesn’t have much to do. “Basically I am just opening my door to these kids. They are doing all the work.”
The club, Rockford RH, for Rockford Honors, meets at the center where students are already making plans for next summer’s collection efforts as well as a winter donation drive for hats, gloves and socks.
The girls had a unique and smart plan for their collection efforts. With a hot-pink flier in hand they went door to door, starting in the Bella Vista area where John Malley had begun with his project, and asked residents to donate a dollar to buy school supplies or to leave school supplies on their porch for a future pick-up date.
“We asked them to staple the flier to the bags so we would know they were for us,” explained Megan.
The response was overwhelming and overwhelmingly positive. Four people gave the girls $50 checks, one person gave them a check for $50 and a popsicle each. “We took the popsicles—it was hot,” admitted Alison.
“It was pretty amazing,” Megan said. “I was really shocked at the response we got going door to door. You’d think most people ask for cans, but we asked for a dollar and they gave us five dollars, ten dollars or more. They didn’t know us from anyone. People were
With Alison, a 16-year-old junior driving since Megan is only 15 and a sophomore, the two made their initial visits and then returned for the follow-up. What they found were often backpacks filled with supplies as well as bags of school items.
“A lot of time people had two backpacks—one for a boy and one for a girl—often filled with more necessary school items.”
“We bought when the stores had back-to-school sales, so we were able to buy a lot with the money,” the girls explained.
They had a sample bundle to show prospective donors, which let them know exactly what just one dollar can buy: 24-pack of crayons, one highlighter, a pack of pencils, one folder, and a notebook. They also raised enough money to buy backpacks and even two graphing calculators that the school resource room didn’t have and desperately needed.
Today the girls are planning on organizing members of Rockford RH going to the Boys and Girls Club to tutor and mentor the students there. These students meet weekly to focus on helping in any way they can to improve the quality of life for the members of the Boys and Girls Clubs, with a goal of becoming more involved in the various programs offered by the Boys and Girls Clubs, volunteering in the Learning Center, the art studio, or helping with special events.
After a presentation before classmates, the pair were excited to have a total of 21 students participate, allowing the door-to-door campaign to expand. They have also earned the admiration of school officials and teachers, such as Mrs. Decker at the high school who gave them encouragement and donations.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler called the efforts “another example of Rockford students helping others is demonstrated through a student-led initiative called ‘Supplies for Students Fundraiser.’ The inaugural group in 2011 consisted of eight student volunteers with a mission to provide school supplies for members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, an organization dedicated to ensuring that every child, regardless of risk or need, may be provided with opportunities that allow him or her to compete and excel in all areas of life.”
Mrs. Mayle couldn’t praise the efforts of the young people more. “No one told them to do this. No one asked them to do it. It shows their true character. They are the brilliance in this plan and I’m honored to have been asked to be their advisor.”
Alison said she enjoyed the summer work, although at the end with time running out, the students were putting in as much as six hours a day trying to get to all their pick-ups. A few donations never did get retrieved as school starting deadline ran out. Still, they are game to continue their efforts and plenty of people they encountered told them they were proud of their undertaking.
“Awesome,” Alison responded when asked how she felt about the compliments. “It was good to hear positive validation of what we were doing.”
Ultimately, Alison and Megan hope the club continues after they leave it in the hands of younger classmates. This year’s freshman class, at over 700, is the largest in the district’s history, and they have no doubt plenty of other young people will want to carry on the good works.
Said Megan, “I think other kids were excited because everyone wants a chance to help, but they don’t always know what they can do.”
Those who want to donate to the winter hats, gloves and underwear drive or drop off supplies or donations for next year can take items either to the high school or the freshman center and note they are for the Rockford RH club.