Button Up!

Local program helps students in need

Patty Kimber, left, and Rayme Martineau neaten up items that will be donated to local students in need. The two are involved with the Button Up project and the Kinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, respectively. Goods were lined up on tables Tuesday at the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Sometimes a person’s future can begin with the barest of necessities.

Some of those necessities, such as bars of soap and pairs of socks, lined the tables Tuesday at the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency, but soon they are to get in the hands — or on the feet — of local students who need them.

Patty Kimber, who works at the Upper Peninsula Health Plan, helped Tuesday with her personal project, which was just one of the efforts in which she and others have been involved.

Kimber started the “Button Up” project about 3¢ years ago.

“At the time, I thought I should be doing more than going to work and riding my bike, which is what I tell people,” Kimber said.

Deodorant is one of the items that will be given to local needy students. (Journal photos by Christie Bleck)

She read many stories of people performing good deeds.

However, Kimber came up with her own plan.

“My thought was that with an initial batch of handmade items, hats and mittens primarily, that I would start a fundraising project with the goal of looking to other people who are artists or crafters and might want to donate even a single item,” Kimber said.

The result would be a display or a sale, however many times a year, of all the items people contributed and finding a route to distribute the money earned, she said.

As Kimber searched the community for such an avenue to give away the funds, she learned about efforts at MARESA.

“They were a way to reach the students in the schools who had needs,” said Kimber, who noted U.P. schools have homeless-student liaisons.

“They are aware or they try to be aware of which students are without their own homes and in need of some supplies or services,” she said.

Now those liaisons are aware of Kimber’s project and reach out on their own, she said.

There have been a number of sales with the project, plus Kimber noted there’s a bank account set up at River Valley Bank where about three times a year goods are displayed.

“The bank is very generous to us in that respect,” Kimber said. “We set up our goods, whatever people have donated in the recent months up to that display, and people can go to the bank and find an item that they might want to purchase.”

They then can make a donation right at the bank so no storefront is needed, nor does a table need to be manned.

With the first few hundreds of dollars earned in the project, it was discovered that the easiest way to get the money out into the community was purchasing gift cards that could be used at local stores, Kimber said, with those cards given to MARESA for school distribution.

Funds also are raised in more traditional ways, such as a quilt raffle at this year’s Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic that raised $400.

“That was something different for us this year,” Kimber said.

Rayme Martineau is U.P. coordinator for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, working with the homeless-student liaisons.

She noted that act is a federal law that school districts have to follow to keep homeless students in schools, and be provided with what they need to be successful.

Martineau also was at MARESA Tuesday to sort goods purchased through the McKinney-Vento/Button Up funds.

Youngsters will need these items to start the 2018-19 school year, Kimber said.

Most people would say success is more easily achieved with proper grooming.

“Rayme refers to it as a hygiene pack,” Kimber said, with shampoo and razors to be included in the packs for high school-aged kids.

Martineau said the packs will be distributed to all intermediate school districts in the U.P.

“So, it’s not just local students,” Martineau said. “It’s all homeless students that have been identified across the U.P.”

Sarah Johnson was yet another person helping at MARESA Tuesday, although her assistance has gone way beyond just a single day.

“I help collect things,” Johnson said. “I make crafts. I go to craft shows. We’ve had a couple rummage sales, anything we can do — creative — to raise money.”

Kimber said people interested in Button Up can contact it through Facebook.