Winter warmth

Gwinn schools collecting cold-weather attire

Gwinn Area Community Schools has created special boxes in which items like hats, gloves and mittens can be donated to local children in need. Helping with the project are, from left, Gracie Ayotte, a sixth-grader at Gwinn Middle School; Rayna Quayle, GMS sixth-grader; and Krissy Lacey, GMS seventh-grader. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

By CHRISTIE BLECK

Journal Staff Writer

GWINN — Rayna Quayle, a sixth-grader at Gwinn Middle School, has seen students come to school in cold weather wearing no hats, gloves or even a jacket.

Their lack of basic attire for cold weather worries her.

“They come in with sweatpants and backpacks,” Rayna said.

That’s not exactly the garb they should wear in an Upper Peninsula winter.

So, Rayna was one of the students who helped create drop-off boxes that were to be placed around the Gwinn area.

The hope is that people will fill those boxes with items like mittens and hats that will keep kids warm this winter.

And for Rayna, she hopes that staying warm will keep them from getting sick.

Spearheading the effort is Sarah Briggs, a middle school special education teacher.

“As a teacher, I’ve noticed kids coming in, as it gets colder, without the necessary attire,” Briggs said. “They don’t have socks on. They have holey shoes. They don’t have any coats. And I know it’s a need throughout the district.

“So, I kind of took it upon myself to see if we could get the community to support kids out here in Gwinn.”

Her students have helped as well, even in a decorative sense — dressing the drop boxes and making posters.

Briggs said drop spots are Larry’s Family Foods in Gwinn, the Crossroads Restaurant & Lounge in Sands Township and Gwinn High School.

“I’d like to get more,” Briggs said.

The boxes should be easy to notice since they’re covered in the traditional Christmas colors of red and green. What’s probably more important, though, is what can go in them: socks, winter boots and coats, gloves, hats and scarves.

Briggs was told by school staff that the problem particularly concerns the elementary kids.

“When the kids are going outside, they don’t have any gloves, or if they do, they have the little, tiny knit ones, so they’re looking for more weather-proof or waterproof-type gloves,” Briggs said.

At the middle school level, she acknowledged socks and boots seem to be the problem, with kids trudging through the snow wearing shoes with holes and no socks.

Briggs plans to have the boxes in the community until Dec. 15. If no items are donated, then the date could be extended.

New or gently used items will be accepted, she said.

Gwinn students will continue to be involved in the project.

“Once we do the collection, they’re going to be really responsible for sorting items into sizes — girls, boys — and then helping with distribution in the schools,” Briggs said.

She’s considering having the tables with items “open” so kids can see what’s available, but she also wants the children with the most need to have the opportunity to look over them first.

Briggs said Gwinn Area Community Schools also conducts a “Clothes Closet,” a combination food pantry and outlet for clothing, toiletries and school supplies. Items are available for any child in the school district.

Teachers have also donated to this project, she said.

“We really try to support our kids out here,” Briggs said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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