In an effort to provide students with assistance beyond the scope of education, one Counselor at Options Schools began a pantry program that has grown immensely over a short period of time.
Started by Options-Noblesville Counselor Devin Hines, the Options Pantry began at the start of the 2018-19 school year, roughly 18 months ago.
With initial support from Grace Church, the pantry consisted of non-perishable items that were available to students and their families. When Hines left her role with Options in December 2018, the future of the pantry was up in the air before Instructional Assistant Elizabeth Essig volunteered to carry on the cause.
“It was such a positive thing for all of our students to have access to food and other items, if they ever needed them,” said Essig. “I didn’t want it to end and with my role, I have some time to assist, and I didn’t mind helping since the benefit was evident.”
Following overseeing the pantry through the end of the 2018-19 school year, Essig not only wanted to see the pantry continue, but grow.
After learning that the pantry would no longer receive assistance from Grace Church, Essig received a recommendation to reach out to the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank. With help from Anita Hagen, Executive Director of Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank, the Options Pantry had secured the support it needed to increase its reach.
“I went with (Options-Noblesville Principal) Adam Barr to meet with Anita (Hagen) and discuss some possibilities,” said Essig. “Anita was really excited to talk about the pantry because of the uniqueness surrounding a school having its own pantry. She came in to look at the space we had, and things took off from there.”
By moving the pantry’s location to a room in the heart of campus, any interested students could easily access items they needed before or after the school day. Essig also saw an opportunity to increase the benefits of the pantry by expanding selection choices.
Having started with non-perishable foods, the pantry has since added perishable foods, hygiene products, gently used clothes, a book exchange and educational flyers on vaping, second-hand smoke and other important topics.
“There have been a number of supporters in addition to Anita and the rest of the Hamilton Country Harvest Food Bank team,” said Essig. “We receive a weekly donation of fresh produce and other perishable items from the White River Food Pantry through Options parent Sarah Reiff. I also was able to obtain monetary donations from a relative and through employee contributions to the Options In Education Foundation. We even have some students bringing in donations.”
If you are interested in making a contribution to the pantry, donations can include non-perishable foods, hygiene products, books, gently used clothes and monetary contributions to be used to purchase additional items. To learn more how to get involved, email Elizabeth Essig to help make an impact.
About Options Schools
Serving students in grades 6-12, Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville & a new campus opening in Westfield in August 2021. Options also offers additional programs that serve students throughout the state of Indiana (serving over 90 school corporations). With a high-quality, individualized approach, Options was founded in 2002 and specializes in providing students with an inclusive environment and a student-to-teacher ratio of 15-to-1.