Kindness Corner expands its reach for teen moms

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Jasper High School sophomores Elyssa Alvey, left, and Destiny Lane organized baby clothes as part of the Kindness Corner, a program to help teen mothers obtain baby and maternity clothing, at the school in Jasper on Wednesday. The two regularly help organize the donated items in their spare time. "My mom was a teen mom, so she explained everything she went through," Alvey said. "It's just a lot. We're just letting people know that everything will eventually be okay."

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

JASPER — When Jasper High School sophomore Destiny Lane’s friend got pregnant, Lane found herself in the Kindness Corner searching through boxes of baby clothes for items her friend needed. That search inspired Lane to help out with the project, which offers baby and maternity items to teen parents in the hope of helping them stay in school.

“I decided that I didn’t like that I had to sit there and sort through boxes and boxes, and someone who is pregnant wouldn’t want to do it either,” Lane said.

Lane asked English teacher Abby Kennedy, one of the founders of Kindness Corner, if she could help. Now, Lane and another of her friends, sophomore Elyssa Alvey, have the items in the Kindness Corner organized according to size and gender, with items covering newborns to age 2. There’s also a section for maternity clothes. 

Lane and Alvey decided to get involved with the Kindness Corner because they wanted to help their peers. Both girls have seen classmates get bullied or lose friends after getting pregnant. They wanted to be part of providing a support system for those girls.

“While it is their fault that they did get pregnant, it’s nice for them to have a support system there if they need it,” Lane said.

Although the Kindness Corner is housed at Jasper High School, Kennedy and her fellow founders— English teachers Brooke Keusch, Kathy Overton and Breanna Thurman, food and consumer science teacher Kyla Beier and health occupations teacher Atalie Schroering — wanted to see it branch out to help students in other area schools. So far, that goal is being met. Although last year, the program centered on Jasper High School, now the program is in its second year and has helped about 10 students in Jasper, Ferdinand and Huntingburg, as well as Pike County. Lane has been a huge part of helping the girls from other schools, occasionally delivering bags of clothes.

Alvey organized baby clothes for the Kindness Corner on Wednesday.

Eventually, Kennedy said, they’d like to have enough items in stock to help other schools set up similar programs.

“It’s not a whole bunch of people, but the people it does help, it’s really helping them,” Kennedy said.

And it’s very much a community effort. After yard sales, community members will bring unsold baby and maternity items to Kennedy to be placed in the closest, and a couple people have offered to fill special requests when needed. Young mothers who used the closet last year are donating the items back to be used again. Maintenance staff at the high school pooled money together to purchase shelving units for the closet, too. When a young mom has a request for something not in the closet, Kennedy sends out an email to her fellow teachers, and she can usually find whatever she’s looking for in a couple days. Last week, Kennedy said, she had a girl looking for maternity jeans. She sent out an email and had multiple pairs in a couple days.

“The teachers are just like, ‘We’re here to help,’” Kennedy said.

Although Kindness Corner’s main function is getting young parents the items they need to care for their babies, it also serves as a support system for students trying to raise a baby and stay in school. A lot of young mothers talk to Kennedy and the other founders about what to expect during a pregnancy. As mothers themselves, the teachers know it can be difficult. For their students, it seemed more so.

One student Kennedy knows tried to stay in school, but had to leave class multiple times a day to breast feed the baby. She ended up dropping out, and Kennedy doesn’t know if she’s completing online courses or not. Lane knows of another teen mom who dropped out of school to take care of her baby and couldn’t pay for online classes. Kennedy only knows of a few teen moms who had their babies and still earned a diploma.

Hopefully, the support teen mothers can receive through the Kindness Corner can change that. Although Kennedy and the other teachers involved try not to ask too many questions when a student comes for help, they do try to establish rapport with them. Eventually, they want to set up a mentoring side of the Kindness Corner where teen parents would set education goals and be rewarded with larger items such as strollers or play pens when they reach their goals. Kennedy would also like to be able to provide diapers because the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — known as WIC — that a lot of teen moms use doesn’t cover diapers. Kindness Corner is about getting the young parents what they need to raise their families and complete their educations.

“Our goal is to help students stay in school,” Kennedy said. “Right now, it seems like they’re dropping out.”

Anyone wishing to help with the program can email Kennedy at akennedy@gjcs.k12.in.us or call JHS at 812-482-6050. Immediate needs include maternity clothes, particularly jeans, and boys clothes, as well as monetary donations to help purchase larger items.




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