Niles nonprofit seeks PPE for students in the fall

NILES — Calls for school supplies mean back to class is on the horizon. A local nonprofit is hoping to raise funds and collect donations for two area school systems with a different sort of need than the usual pencils and paper. This drive is to collect for personal protective equipment.

In the past, Niles Music and More used its concerts to help other nonprofits in their own missions. This month with COVID-19 precautions and mandates limiting gatherings, there will be no concerts. The nonprofit’s president of the board, Caryn Adler, is reaching out to the Niles community to fundraise in another way. The nonprofit launched its Keeping Our Students Safe drive for single-use, adult and child sized masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

The drive is one way Adler hopes to help the Niles Community Schools and Brandywine Community Schools keep staff and students safe in the fall. The campaign will last the length of a month, according to Adler. Collection boxes will be set up at participating local businesses, with monetary contributions towards supplies being accepted by the organization directly.

“We just want to show our support to our schools, our students, our families and our community,” Adler said.

As schools work toward reopening plans in the fall, Adler sees the cost to both families and the schools being a hurdle.

“We understand not all families have that kind of access to those supplies, especially a new mask a day on a daily basis,” Adler said. “My daughter has five kids in school. I understand.”

Adler spoke to a retired school teacher from Grand Rapids who has already contributed over $1,000 to the campaign.

“She cares about the kids,” Adler said. “There are around 3,400 kids in the Niles Community School district. A mask a day can be pretty steep [cost-wise].”

Keeping Our Students Safe is looking for single-use masks, in adult and child sizes for the schools. The campaign is also seeking hand sanitizer in pumps to sit on teachers’ desks or refill bottles of the product. Adler said they are asking that the sanitizer be a 62.5 percent alcohol to be effective. Donations of disinfecting wipes to clean off surfaces like door knobs, light switches and tables are also sought after.

Currently, donations are being accepted at the Niles District Library, 620 E. Main St., Brown Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 521 E. Main St., Schram’s Defense Products, 1011 Broadway St., and Culver’s, 1420 S. 11th St.

“We have people on staff who spend hours each week evaluating our needs and securing PPE and supplies to allow us to open safely this fall,” said Brandywine Community Schools superintendent Karen Weimer. “We are grateful for community people and businesses that realize the need we have and are able to help us out.”
Tracy Hertsel, director of student support services at Niles Community Schools also volunteered his gratitude for the help.

“We are grateful for the commitment of Niles Music and More to providing students, teachers and staff what they need to succeed,” Hertsel said. “This year, that includes personal hygiene equipment that will support the district’s efforts to ensure a safe return to school in the fall. We appreciate both Niles Music and More and the community’s support during this important time for schools across Berrien County.”

Adler hopes to raise enough money and donations to have a positive impact on the safety of students and staff as school buildings may reopen in the fall.

“Niles is a very, very giving, caring community,” Adler said. “They step up when they need to help.”

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