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Monfredo: Andy’s Attic - Making a Difference in this Community

Saturday, November 17, 2018

 

Andy's Attic

Since 2013 Andy’s Attic at South High Community School have given students a way to make a difference in the lives of others.  The former principal at South High when the program began and now Superintendent, Maureen Binienda  spoke fondly of the program …” Andy’s Attic adds to the commitment of community at South High Community School.  This community includes the students who volunteer, the dedication of Christine Foley… Andy’s Attic Coordinator, the Great Worcester clothing donors and volunteers, and the 1,500 recipients of Andy’s Attic.  In Andy’s Attic, we all learn what it means to truly care about another and to take action.”

Dennis Vanasse, Special Education Department Head at the school, echoed the same sentiment and acknowledged, “Andy’s Attic has added more passion to the whole culture of South High School.  The students are proud to be an integral part of running a non-profit organization, helping serve the community and learning strategies to facilitate a successful business.”

So how did this program start?  Andy’s Attic was started in 2011 as a result of the tragic death of Andrew Reese, a junior at Shrewsbury High School.  He was 18 and was killed in a car accident.  As a result of this untimely accident Andrew’s parents Lisa and Darrell Reese decided to start Andy’s Attic as a clothing pantry at their home as a way of honoring the memory of Andy.

Maureen Binienda, then principal at South High, hearing about Andy’s Attic asked if anyone was interested in volunteering in Shrewsbury and staff member Christine Foley stepped up.  In a short period of time she brought over 200 bags of clothing to South High to assist her own students in need.  As Mrs. Foley admits she loved watching the smiles on the faces of her students after trying on the clothes and being so grateful.

Then in the spring of 2013, the Reese Family moved to Florida for they wanted to make a fresh start and mentioned to Christine if she would be interested in continuing with the non-profit business.   Seizing this opportunity she called Principal Binienda and her reaction was “Bring it to South High.  Thus, as the saying goes, “the rest is history.”   Andy’s Attic will be celebrating its fifth season and each year it continues to expand with more and agencies and individuals looking for assistance.

As stated in their website the mission is to provide for families, especially those in need, the ability to have warm and comfortable clothing so that they can advance in everyday life with the help of the generous student volunteers at South High Community School.

According to Mrs. Foley, this school year Andy’s Attic is busier that ever for they have already filled over 600 orders and have worked with over a hundred community volunteers from all over Worcester County on Saturday Volunteer Day.   They are currently filling up to 50-70 orders per day and have website visits per month of over 3,600 looks.  The average Saturday volunteers are between 60-80 and on Tuesday and Thursday volunteer days’ average between 20-25 South High students.

Just this week she received more good news. The Bombas Sock Company, a for profit company who recently appeared on Shark Tank, donated 2500 pairs of socks. The students on their own had applied for a grant and submitted it last month.   Needless to say the students were thrilled to hear the good news.

Other businesses and organizations that have assisted include TJ MAXX with four years of support in supplying the project with bags for orders.   As Mrs. Foley stated, “Without them, we would be in trouble!” Also, the Worcester Police and Fire Department have had a coat drive,  the Hanover Theater has yearly donation drives , Charter Communications donated 27 pairs of new boots, Jenny Boston Boutique sent in 2 large shipments of new clothing, and schools in the area have made contributions,  Doherty High School has a football sock drive and supports the cause with monthly volunteers, Norrback Elementary just this week had an evening of Thanks and asked for donations of new underwear or socks, Grafton High School continues to send in new items and monthly volunteers, Oxford High School has a yearly sock and underwear drive and also sends in volunteers and of course the host school South High does it all.

So what can the public do to help out in this cause? …. Mrs. Foley suggested that the support that is needed … coats, hats mittens, and gloves. Andy’s Attic is completely out and currently have over 70 order requests for individuals in the community who need clothing.  

As an adjunct to Andy’s Attic, Mrs. Foley also teaches Marketing I and Marketing II classes for students are learning through hands-on experiences how a non-profit operates.  Students have learned about 503c3 and what goes into running a business.  A Student Board of Directors was created and they perform all the tasks of a nonprofit.  The class created documents, tracked financial information, did marketing on social media and designed their own website.  Students are currently managing the website, keeping the community up to date through Social Media, balancing the finances and depositing checks through mobile deposits, keeping track of inventory and managing all data.   The Student Board of Directors performs specific jobs each day revolving around the business while at the same time learning how to run a business.  As part of the course, the students have had the opportunity to listen to speakers within the community on marketing and how to run a non-profit business. In addition, a Marketing III class will take place later in the year tied into Worcester State University with college credit.

Mrs. Foley’s work in the community has not gone unnoticed for she just recently was informed that she will be receiving a well-deserved honor from Friendly House, the “Galaxy of Stars” award on December 6th for her dedication to the community.

The passion behind the mission of Mrs. Foley is infectious as one sees the smile on her face as she talks about the program.  In a recent visit to the school, she declared “Watching my students work with purpose and passion is what drives me to continue the mission of Andy’s Attic … serving others.  We are fostering a community of teens who are feeling what it feels like to work with a purpose … to help others and to be kind.”

 

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