West Staff Gives Back to the Community

Book-giving event is just one of many planned service projects

By Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief

For the West Bend West High School staff, the ‘giving season’ began before a single Christmas ornament was prematurely sold.

On Tuesday the West staff hosted a book-giving event in the West Library. Prior to the event the school ran a book drive lasting from October to November. During this time over 2,000 books were collected, which were then offered at the book-giving event. Local organizations Family Promise, Boys and Girls Club, Friends Incorporated, Youth Treatment Center, and the Youth and Family Project attended the event, with an open invitation to their clients.

The months of the book drive were busy, with homecoming and Thanksgiving break interrupting the drive, leaving only two designated resource times to collect books from students. However, with large contributions from West teachers, the drive ended as a success, with a plethora of books made available to local readers.

“At first we thought we would only have enough books for a small number of organizations, and then once we counted them and did math, there were 2,000 books divided by five organizations,” said Tanya Lohr, social studies teacher. “We didn’t really set a goal, but this surpassed any picture I had in my head. We filled an entire room with books.”

The math produced a surprising figure, allowing each of the five organizations to take around 400 books each. And these books offer an impressive spread as well. From baby books, to early chapter books, young adult, self-help and even some textbooks. And, of course, the entire Harry Potter series was donated as well.

With such a wide variety of books, it was difficult to determine how to distribute them to the organizations.

“At first we thought we were just going to box up the books and give them to different organizations,” Lohr said. “And then as we started to sort them we thought book choice is so personal. How do we know what sort of books an organization wants or needs? So that’s when we came up with the book-giving event.”

The event was appreciated by the organizations that attended.

“I think it is excellent, especially because a lot of organizations are nonprofit and don’t have a lot of money to spend on books like this, so it gives us a great opportunity to stock up our library,” said Nicki Kutil of the Youth and Family Project.

Kutil plans on using the books in visitation rooms and therapy sessions. Heather Medrow, from Friendship Incorporated, has similar plans.

“I’m hoping to use it for our therapist on staff, so she can give them out to the preteens and teens that she works with,” Medrow said.

“A lot of organizations don’t have a lot of money to spend on books, so it gives us a great opportunity to stock up our library.”
– Nicki Kutil, Youth and Family Project

The idea for the book drive came from teacher inservices held at the beginning of the school  year, where the staff was broken into groups to visit community organizations that service students. These trips led to the realization that the community organizations were in great need of supplies.

“Books kept coming up,” Lohr said. “They had clients who wanted books, but they didn’t really know how to get inexpensive sources of books. So Mrs. Becker and I got together and talked about what if we did some service project every month,” Lohr said.

So the book drive was born. But the staff did not stop there. Lohr’s idea of enacting a service project every month was put into action, and quickly. In September the West staff had a school supply and fresh vegetable drive for the Youth Treatment Center.

While the focus of these projects have been helping community organizations that help students, others in the community have benefited as well.

“Some of those groups are strictly dealing with the youth,” said Kristen Becker, an English teacher. “But some of the organizations, like Family Promise, it’s the parents and the other family members as well. Or even the Boys and Girls Club might be younger than our students, but they’re still students that are being impacted by it.”

Starting in October two West teachers have been volunteering once a week from 4-5 p.m. as tutors at Family Promise, an organization that helps homeless and low income families.

“I helped a woman with math, and I’m like oh my gosh, I don’t even do math,” said Becker. “I felt so good when I walked away because I’m thinking, ‘I know I actually helped somebody.’”

With their consistent schedule, the staff has begun to see regulars, and have even seen results.

“One young man who has been coming to tutoring has recently received some praises from his teachers for getting very high scores on his recent tests,” said Danielle Konstanz, an English teacher. “The woman that I have been working with frequently is very close to achieving her GED. I think she has only one last test to pass.”

Another service project to collect personal care items in January and February is being planned.

(Photos by Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief.)

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