In the last year, Sherri Lynn Noe and a group of her friends have organized donations to GRPS schools that total almost $70,000. Over the last decade, the total is probably $150,000 or more.
The list of items she has helped secure for a variety of district schools is impressive.
For a recent drive for Dickinson Academy there were 90 new winter coats, 30 pairs of winter boots, 49 pairs of snow pants, 57 pairs of gloves and mittens, plus socks, shoes, school supplies and more.
For a district program for scholars experiencing homelessness, Noe and her squad rounded up 240 small tubes of toothpaste, 50 sets of toiletries, 22 pairs of shoes, 12 belts, brushes, combs, deodorant, soap, underwear, socks and even a weighted blanket.
All told there have been eight donations to GRPS schools in the last 12 months.
And Noe has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
She recalls the response this past summer when she found out that there were 300 GRPS scholars experiencing homelessness.
“We decided to do a fund drive to supply them with items that were most needed,” she said. “That could be everything from toiletries to shoes to school supplies. I put the word out on social media, and there were so many Amazon packages arriving daily, it was amazing.”
A Grand Rapids native, Noe attended North Park Elementary until fourth grade and graduated from Forest Hills Central. Her heart for young people was deepened, she said, during a 15-year stint in youth ministry at Mayflower Congregational and Ada Congregational churches.
She got re-connected to GRPS through MaryAnn Prisichenko, who was the principal at Sibley Elementary at the time. There she helped organize a school garage sale. Later she volunteered at Feeding America at Caesar Chavez Elementary School, and there her eyes were opened to the need for warm winter clothing.
“The winter apparel started out small,” she said with a smile. “But it has just grown and grown.”
Noe is quick to note that everything she organizes is a collaboration.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I really want to stress this is not a Sherri thing. Friends, family, the community. Such an incredible group of people and businesses that have come on board to really raise awareness about these needs and to help support my passion and efforts with these projects.”
For example, she said, she has more than 100 people from the community who regularly drop off returnable cans and bottles with the money raised by such returnables getting used for all of her donation drives.
“Last year I collected almost $4,000,” she said. “This year will be close to that. That’s a lot of cans.”
And although hundreds and hundreds of GRPS scholars have benefited from what Sherri and Friends get accomplished, there are many days, Sherri said, where she feels like she gets as much as she gives.
“It’s incredibly rewarding knowing we are helping literally hundreds, if not thousands, of children and teens every year,” she said. “I always say that I don’t have the financial ability to give a lot, but I can give of my time.”
Mary Spalding, GRPS Purchasing Coordinator, said what Sherri and her team do for the district is inspiring.
“I am grateful for the positive impact they are making,” she said. “This group of donor-givers are champions. They inspire us with their kindness and generosity, and their care and kindness create excitement and encouragement for our scholars and their families. Many times, the scholars will burst into cheers as the donations are delivered to the schools.”
The 2022 Winter Apparel Drive is going on through December, and in January and February 2023, Sherri and Friends will kick off a drive to gather shoes, belts and toiletries for scholars who are experiencing homelessness. Anyone who’d like to support either of these drives can contact Sherri Lynn Noe on Venmo at SherriLynn-Noe or on PayPal at email@example.com.