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Michigan store where everything is free needs help stocking shelves

The Power H Shop opened up in October and has since served Holland Public Schools families once a month. Parents can get items not covered by state assistance.

HOLLAND, Michigan — A smile comes to Samantha Mendoza's face as she swipes through her phone to find photos of her two children, Oscar and Esmerelda. As she talks about them, you can tell how proud she is to be their mom.

"Both of my children have autism, so they have their own little quirks. My son, he's really obsessed with stuffed animals and he loves to read. He has grown so much with Holland Public Schools, and he's thrived a lot," Samantha said.

"My daughter, Esmerelda, she's a ball of fun. I mean, she loves to dance and sing and be her silly self."

But Samantha is among a growing number of parents struggling to meet her children's needs.

"Inflation has hit really hard. Because I mean, you now have to make the choice between either paying a bill, or getting something that maybe your child needs or something that you need — having to struggle back and forth picking what do I get this time? What sacrifice do I have to make?" she said.

Luckily for Samantha, the principal at her kids' school recently notified parents about a resource now available to district families. It's called the Power H Shop and it's inside the Longfellow School on E. 24th Street.

"It is a store for our Holland Public families to come and receive new school supplies, household items and clothing and it is really targeted to our families who might be experiencing more financial difficulty or maybe experiencing a crisis at home," said Mallory Timmer who serves as a coordinator at West Elementary for the Ottawa Community Schools Network (OCSN).

"All the items that we have at the store are not covered by state assistance, and so this is really helping to fill a need that we are seeing."

The Power H Shop opened in October. It is open to Holland Public Schools families once per month and has so far been "very successful."

"Most of the items have been donated through community partners — businesses in the Holland area, local churches in the Holland area and individuals on their own," said Sarah Krupka, who serves as an OCSN coordinator for Holland Middle School.

In order to keep the Power H Shop stocked, the district will be holding an event on Thursday, Feb. 2 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. where people can come and donate new items to the store.

"We'll have some kids activities here, and then it's also a time for anybody from the community to come and see what the store is all about and check out our space," Mallory said.

If you can't make it to the event, you can email Mallory at mtimmer@hollandpublicschools.org to arrange to drop items off. You can also shop for the store online.

"Our Amazon Wishlist includes all of the items that we need for the store that families are looking for. And so you can just shop through Amazon, it can be shipped right here to Longfellow, and then we will put the items out monthly as needed," Sarah said.

If parents cannot come to the store on scheduled shopping dates they can contact their child's school, and coordinators within the building will be able to help.

"We know a student can't be successful unless all of their needs are met, and so by being able to alleviate some stress by providing some of these items, it's very encouraging to know that it might help the overall success of the student," Mallory said.

Samantha says the Power H Shop has been a blessing and a stress reliever for her, and she's glad she checked it out.

"I was able to get my son a jacket, and my daughter a jacket, and get boots and stuff. That was plenty of help that I needed. I love that they have shoes because kids outgrow them," she said.

"Here, I don't have to make a sacrifice. I can go to the Power H Shop and get a couple of things and that decreases the odds of me having to make a decision about what we have to live without."

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