The Giving Closet is stocked with winter coats, boots, clothes and more, ready to make the winter months easier for struggling families in the Comstock Park area.
The donation closet, located in the Comstock Park Public Schools Administration Building, is just one project started by the Comstock Park Community Outreach Organization, formed to meet ongoing needs in the district by providing resources for Comstock Park students and residents.
Missi McPherson, Comstock Park Public Schools educational support services coordinator and homeless liaison, helps distribute the clothes, school supplies and food to families from the Giving Closet, which started in 2012. Superintendent Ethan Ebenstein’s wife, Julie Ebenstein, organizes the closet.
The holidays last year were tough on families,” she said, noting children went without winter coats and wondered where food would come from.
The group is a faith-based coalition representing local businesses, governmental, educational, religious and community service organizations formed in 2011 to improve the lives of individuals and families in Comstock Park. Donations come from a variety of sources, including local businesses and individuals.
A Way to Help
To further meet the need, the Comstock Park Community Outreach Organization has launched the Take a Bite Out of Hunger! campaign to help feed families during the summer and school breaks. A $5 donation will provide 30 pounds of food purchased from Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank to help feed families.
“Our families don’t have much access to available food pantries,” she said, noting the few in close proximity have limited hours.
The number of families in the district needing support services has grown dramatically in the past decade, McPherson said. District-wide the number of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch is approaching 60 percent.
“Ten to 12 years ago that number was 13 percent,” McPherson said, adding the number of homeless students, referred to as students in transition, ranges from 35 to 50.
Dan Clark, a local businessman who helped found the organization, said he was looking for a way to bring various entities in the community together to more efficiently meet needs. Between 30 to 40 organizations are involved. “The big thing has been about collaboration between organizations,” said Clark, whose wife, Ellen Clark, is a retired Comstock Park teacher.
The organization focuses its efforts on three areas: at-risk students, senior citizens and the Hispanic population. It has opened the York Creek Community Center to serve the at-risk and Hispanic population with various types of programming, held senior activities and offers English as a Second Language classes.