The Brewster High School Career Skills class is giving back to the community with Bear Essentials, a donation program to help community members in need. Collaborating with an Amazon donation service, the class receives boxes of goods every two to three months. Donations include everything from diapers and detergent to dehumidifiers and kitchen tools.
The program began when teacher and technology specialist Donna Schneider connected with a former classmate and Brewster High School graduate and learned about her Arizona school district’s partnership with Amazon. The Career Skills class already had a connection with Amazon, as teacher Denise Galgano’s son Teddy, a 2014 Brewster High School graduate, is Amazon’s PCF Senior Operations Manager in Windsor, Connecticut. He was able to get Bear Essentials approved for the donation program within a couple of days.
Schneider, Galgano and teacher Sarah Barnes pick up donated items in a U-Haul and students help to unload, unpack boxes, and sort, organize and inventory the products in their very own stockroom at the high school.
“Our students are all gaining some warehouse experience,” Galgano said.
Donated items go to those in need. Counselors, teachers or families can fill out a Google form requesting available items. Students then fulfill the orders and get them ready for pickup or delivery. When Bear Essentials opened up its donation form to the community, the service received 65 orders in just two days.
“It’s really helpful for people in need,” said Mason DellaValle, who was busy pulling orders with classmate Max Michinko. Mason’s favorite job is to pack the food products.
“I like to get the school supplies that people request,” said Michinko.
Donations also make their way to clothing kiosks that students have painted and refurbished themselves as well as charitable organizations that use the donated items as prizes for raffle baskets. Items are also incorporated into a “sunshine cart” that brings a little cheer to district staff members who may be having a bad day. Overflow donations go to Putnam CAP, WIC and the community food pantry.
“Our mission is to care for our den, one essential at a time, while teaching our students necessary job skills so that they can be employable when they leave us,” Schneider said.