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Donor gives Merrimack school district $10k to buy clothes, supplies for homeless students

Union Leader Correspondent

September 09. 2018 11:06PM

MERRIMACK — An anonymous donor is providing cash to the local school district to purchase clothing and other supplies for homeless students.

“This is going to help us a great deal because we have been limited with what we could do,” Superintendent Marge Chiafery said of the unexpected donation.

She said an anonymous donor contacted school officials asking them how much money would be necessary to provide clothing and snacks for the district’s 22 students currently deemed homeless.

According to Chiafery, there are 10 elementary students, two middle school students and 10 high school students that either do not have a home, are living in a car or are residing in temporary housing with friends.

Currently, the district’s social worker and homeless liaison, Jodi Hanley, attempts to obtain gift cards to Walmart and other retailers to provide the families with necessities, said Chiafery.

The donor, however, has offered to provide $10,000 to the district, which would offer a clothing allowance of $200 for elementary students, $275 for middle school students and $375 for high school students facing homelessness.

The money could be used to purchase winter coats, shoes and regular clothes, said Chiafery, adding all receipts will be monitored and given to Hanley. Other funds will be used to purchase snacks that would supplement the students’ free lunches, she added. Any remaining money would be used to provide emergency housing for a student and their family who may need to temporarily reside at a local hotel.

On average, the district has about 20 to 26 homeless students each year.

“It is real, and it is in our town,” said Shannon Barnes, school board chairman, adding the $10,000 donation is greatly appreciated and quite humbling.

She said the unexpected money will help the district support the whole child, not just their educational needs. It is more than just a monetary benefit, explained Barnes.

“Obviously, the generosity is incredible. It is amazing,” echoed Andy Schneider, school board member.

Chiafery agreed, saying she was delighted about the inquiry and extremely thankful for the donation, which was accepted by the school board this week.

While homelessness among the student body is not something that is discussed on a daily basis, it is something that the district must address, said Barnes. She said it is refreshing to know there is someone in the community who has offered to help these students without any recognition.

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