MUSKEGON, Mich. — Senior year of high school is supposed to be one of, if not the most memorable years of our lives. Experiences like prom and graduation are the highlights of every spring, culminating an array of events that finalize this monumental chapter in every young adult's life.
But, the continued spread of COVID-19, along with the uncertainty and fears that go with it, has wiped it all out for the Class of 2020.
A Muskegon sign company is stepping up to make sure the pandemic doesn't completely destroy senior year for thousands of Michigan students.
Soon after schools closed in March, Charlie and Patty Tjapkes - owners of 'All Signs, LLC," - started thinking of ideas of how they could help make sure Muskegon-area seniors wouldn't be forgotten.
"We have seven kids and I started thinking about how they would feel if this was their senior year," said Patty. "My heart actually broke."
Patty and her husband started making custom signs for graduating seniors. Each sign with phrase "You are not forgotten" on the top and "Quarantined" on the bottom, and in between is the student's name, their school colors and logo, and the year 2020.
"Everybody was excited to graduate," said Charlie. "Now, everybody's got to be in the house. Sitting and staring at walls and barely able to do anything.
"I think this is a nice way for seniors to have their names in front of your house and let people know they've graduated despite the circumstances."
From late March until the mid-April, Patty and Charlie had only taken 30 orders for signs, but once Patty posted about it on the company Facebook page, it blew up.
Hundreds of new orders have come in, including several from as far north as Traverse City and as far south as South Haven.
"I was literally on the phone all day [Sunday] taking orders," Patty said. "We're currently making 300 signs for the Allegan school system."
According to the International Sign Association, since sign, graphics and visual communications companies are considered essential infrastructure, Charlie and Patty are able to keep their business operational, as long as they have stringent safety and health procedures in place.
Proper social distancing is respected when people who've placed orders come pick up their signs. There's no human interaction at all. Orders submitted from long distances are being shipped.
The majority of All Signs, LLC's work is creating these signs for seniors. Making sure those who are missing out on some of the greatest moments of their lives, have something to remind themselves, and everybody else, that they're accomplishments still matter, despite these uncertain times.
"I don't know how [the seniors] are handling all this," said Patty. "We had to do something and this is how we chose to help."
Signs are $20 each. If you're interested in having one made, you can contact Charlie & Patty Tjakpes by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (231) 755-5540.
Two dollars from every sign sale will be donated to the 'All Shores Church Hope Food Pantry,' to help those struggling to get food during these challenging times.
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