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T’is the Season for Community and Caring as GELA Kicks Off Annual Event

A young woman sorts through clothing donations

Caption: GELA student Leigha Hager organizes clothing donations in preparation for the Swap

The holiday season is fast approaching, and Grand Erie Learning Alternatives (GELA) is kicking off the season of giving in Grand Erie with its annual clothing swap.

“The swap started in 2014, and the idea came from our parenting class during a discussion around the needs of new parents,” said Andrea Murik, Teacher at GELA. “It evolved into this event that hopefully helps meet some of those needs in our community.”

The Free Swap takes place today (November 28) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors are invited to bring their own clothing and small household items to trade, but everyone is welcome to take what they need. Getting ready for the Swap is a whole-school effort, with students popping into the gymnasium throughout the days leading up to the event to lend an extra hand sorting, categorizing, and displaying the hundreds of items received.

“The best part is seeing kids come in, and how happy they are to get new toys and books,” says Leigha Hager, a student at GELA who’s dedicated her time to assisting the Swap. “We want to show the community that we’re here for them.”

Visitors to the Swap will find a selection of gently used children’s and adult’s winter jackets, hats, scarves and other garments, boots and shoes, small household items and kitchen gadgets, and lots of stuffed animals, dolls, toys, puzzles, and books.

GELA’s efforts with this annual event are echoed in Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan which aims to foster and celebrate inclusive school communities that enhance the learning experiences of all students through its Community pillar, as well as promoting and enabling environments that recognize the well-being of mind, body, emotion, and spirit through the Well-Being indicator.

“This school is not just a building, it’s about caring,” points out Murik. “If someone can visit the Swap and pick up items they need, that means they can use the money they save for groceries or gifts for Christmas, and that makes a big difference.”

Throughout the year, GELA also runs a Free Store, where students can pick up personal care items such as deodorant, shampoo, diapers, and other hygiene items for themselves and their families. The school is seeking community partnerships with companies and organizations able to donate these items to ensure the school can continue to meet the needs of its community on an ongoing basis. Those who are able to help can contact the school directly.

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