Dozens of Staff Chip in Each Paycheck to Help Families

Lori Martin, accounts payable and purchasing representative, and Ronda Bichoff, East Elementary School paraprofessional, help coordinate the Warm A Heart and $ense for Kids funds

When Troy Wright’s glasses broke while he was rough-housing with his friends, his mother, Cindy Wollner, didn’t know what to do. She had already exhausted the family’s eye insurance coverage, and new glasses were going to cost $300.

“My first thought was, ‘I can’t afford this right before Christmas and Thanksgiving,'” Wollner said.

After noticing he was going without, Kelloggsville Public Schools teachers notified Wollner of a fund they regularly contribute to that helps district families meet their basic needs. Thanks to staff members, Troy, a seventh-grader at Kelloggsville Middle School, is now sporting brand-new glasses.

Alexandro Ochoa, a preschooler at Kelloggsville Early Childhood Center, all bundled up in his new winter clothes
Alexandro Ochoa, a preschooler at Kelloggsville Early Childhood Center, all bundled up in his new winter clothes

“I literally almost cried,” Wollner said. “I am so grateful for this right now. I didn’t have the money for new glasses.”

“It made me happy,” Troy said, while wearing his black frames.

For winter coats, hats and gloves, glasses, even rent or heat bills for district families, staff members have been pooling their money to help for more than a decade .

Under the umbrella “Kelloggsville Community Cares,” 35 staff members have money taken directly from their paychecks to fund the Warm A Heart and $ense for Kids programs, said Lori Martin, accounts payable and purchasing representative. Many more give one-time donations. There is a lot of need in the district, they say, where about 80 percent of students are economically disadvantaged.

The $ense for Kids fund covers boots, glasses and other clothing items, and Warm A Heart funds new coats, hats, snow pants and gloves. There is also a fund for emergency needs such as rent or heat. Last year, $2,300 was donated to Warm A Heart, $1,900 to $ense for Kids and $350 toward the emergency fund. Donations of knitted items also come from local churches.

Longtime Kelloggsville secretary Gerry Gromko, who died in 2012, helped start the program in Kelloggsville, modeled after a program in Kentwood.

Ready to Play in the Snow

Amanda Ochoa was extremely grateful that her son Alexandro, a preschooler at Kelloggsville Early Childhood Center, received a warm coat, snow pants, boots and gloves through the funds.

“It helped tremendously,” said Ochoa, who has two other children in first and third grades. “I was not able to get him the proper winter gear so he can play out in the snow.”

She said it means a lot that teachers donate to the programs to help students.

“It’s a big relief because now I know he will stay warm and healthy. It boosted his confidence when he received the clothes. He smiled so wide.”

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio

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