In the back of Newton Senior High School language arts teacher and girls’ swim coach Sarah Patterson’s classroom are two lockers — one labeled “girls” and one labeled “boys” — flanked by a sign that touts “The Body Shop.”
Within these lockers sit the beginnings of what Patterson hopes will blossom into a thriving service project year after year in the form of shampoo, razors, deodorant and laundry detergent. The shop, open to any NHS student, is an effort put together by the Aquagirls to help students who may be in need of personal care items.
“The sports teams are all supposed to take on a service project or do something for the community,” Patterson said. “This has been in the back of my mind the last couple years. If there’s a need, it might not always be something the student can do something about. It’s about an awareness of what it takes to go out and be successful in the world, to be ready for a job interview and the self-esteem of feeling good about yourself.”
NHS senior and Aquagirls captain Olivia Oliver recognized the need for such a program within the school and figured helping students was simply an extension of what she and her teammates already do for one another.
“It just seems like it’s kind of a high need in our school,” Oliver said. “A lot of the kids need the help if they can get it; students realize it’s a problem. I’ve watched over the four years I’ve been here, and it’s become more of an issue. I think kids are a lot more open to the idea of helping.”
“I think this is just kind of an extension of what the swimming girls do for each other,” Oliver added. “I know if we couldn’t afford our suits or something, we’d make sure everyone had the same opportunity and same chance to participate, so finances weren’t an issue.”
To get the shop off its feet, Patterson took a shopping trip with $100 in her pocket and picked up a few products for the shop before donations started rolling in. What she was able to purchase with that money was particularly moving to her as she realized just how expensive many personal care items can be.
“I bought the initial products, and I wanted to spend $100,” Patterson explained. “I spent $109, so just a few dollars more, and I couldn’t believe how little I got for $109. If I were a student like Olivia paying for everything she has, or like a family that’s really watching their money, that $109 wouldn’t go very far.”
While Patterson anticipated a slow start to things, she’s had eight students visit the shop in the two days it’s been open. So far, the response has been positive, with Patterson and the Aquagirls receiving several donations and pledges from students and teachers willing to pitch in towards the effort.
“It’s been fun to get donations,” Patterson said. “Jody Morgan-Peters is Mary Kay representative, so she had some extra makeup that she donated, and just today I got an envelope full of razors and hotel shampoos. I sent out a flyer to all the teachers in the district with information about how to donate, because up until today it was just the high school that knew about it. I got quite a few emails back -- one man already said he’d be sending a check with his granddaughter so we’ll have money to spend.”
“I’ve received probably four or five emails saying, ‘great idea, what do you need?’” she added. “One of the teachers across the hall told me, ‘I happen to be shopping this weekend, what should I pick up?’ and have even had Key Club offer to help, so the response has been very postive and very overwhelming.”
Oliver hopes the experience will prove as positive for her team as it is from the students they’re helping.
“With the swim team, we’re in the pool every day, so we get ready together and whenever someone needs something, we just lend it out,” she said. “We kind of take care of each other, and bringing more kids into this and helping more kids — I think it’ll be good for our team.”
To contribute a monetary donation or personal care items to The Body Shop, contact Sarah Patterson at (641) 792-5797 ext. 2251, email@example.com or simply drop them off at the NHS main office, labeled “The Body Shop.”