PALS hosts clothing drive

Hannah Lentz

As the cold winter weather conditions appear in the Grand Rapids area, Grand Valley State University’s PALS organization is holding a winter gear drive on campus. The collected items will be donated directly to the children attending Harrison Park School in Grand Rapids.

PALS is an organization at GVSU that seeks to positively influence children by providing a solid foundation of meaningful relationships in the community with committed student mentors. After being contacted by the school community coordinator of Harrison Park School, the organization decided to contribute to it after the district implemented a switch to uniforms.

“Many of these children are from low-income families and may not be able to afford such necessities,” said Sherry Zhang, public relations and finance coordinator of PALS. “It is important that they have long-sleeved, white shirts to go under their uniforms to stay warm. Gloves and hats are needed, as well.”

PALS services almost 1,000 students and more than 600 families at Harrison Park School, with more than 95 percent of those families living under the poverty level. The main focus of the winter fundraiser is to eliminate barriers for those families.

“It is such a great opportunity for us to give back to the community and positively impact their lives,” Zhang said. “It may seem like something very little, but it may mean the world to the children.”

Though mentors of the PALS program donate to the clothing drive, members of the GVSU and surrounding communities also contribute to this event, as well as other varied fundraisers throughout the year.

“As mentors, we see the struggles that our mentees’ families experience,” said Jessica Mac Vane, mentor of the PALS program. “Not being able to afford a hat, mittens or a coat is an idea that is so distant to most college students, but seeing that families really do struggle providing these necessities puts things in perspective. During a season where many are worrying about what stuff they need to buy, families and kids in Grand Rapids are struggling just to stay warm. What’s great about PALS student mentors is that our mentors understand this. They see it; a child they care about is going through it.”

For those wishing to donate, PALS will continue collecting gloves, hats and long-sleeved, white shirts until Thursday at the 2020 Information Desk of Kirkhof and at the North and South Community Centers of Laker Village Apartments.

“Not only are our mentors providing kids with physical items, like gloves or coats, but they are providing something that money can’t buy,” Mac Vane said. “They provide their mentees with a friend, a role model and a personal cheerleader all in one. The Pals mentors are beautiful people because when the weather gets cold, they are there to help; and when their mentee’s world gets cold and dark, they are there with all the support and encouragement that a struggling child could ask for.”