WILBRAHAM, MASS. – Sometimes social media does exactly what it was intended to do: leverage the power of individuals for good. When Wilbraham resident, Joyce Leckey read information on the MHA Facebook page about hosting a drive to benefit Good To Go, an initiative to supply every individual who arrives at MHA for emergency respite care with personal care basics, she asked her son, Thomas who is a student at Wilbraham Middle School (WMS), what he thought about it. Thomas liked the idea.
Joyce then presented the information to the school’s administration and suggested it would be wonderful if WMS organized a student-led drive to collect personal care items for Good To Go. WMS leaders thought their students would embrace the project—and did they ever! Students collected more than 1,300 items including toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, wash cloths, razors, shave cream, socks and more.

On Wednesday February 27, the collected items were officially donated to MHA during a small recognition event at WMS. When Kim Lee, Vice President of Resource Development and Branding arrived, she was overwhelmed to see student after student carrying large boxes to the school’s lobby.

“It was an incredible site to see student after student making their way down the hallway with box after box filled with items the school community had collectively donated to support MHA. Knowing that every item would make its way back out into our community to support those who are served through MHA was very emotional. I am so proud of the young people and the many families who stepped forward to pitch in. It’s heartwarming to know just how eager the school was to assist individuals they may never know or meet, but who will be directly impacted by their gestures of kindness.”

Lee add that the items collected will benefit every MHA program and the individuals served who are challenged by mental health, intellectual disabilities, substance use, homelessness and acquired brain injuries, and those who arrive at MHA through the organization’s emergency respite program.”

“Individuals who come to us through emergency respite are intellectually or developmentally disabled, challenged by mental health problems, new in their recovery from addiction, or chronically homeless,” said Kimberley A. Lee, VP of Resource Development and Branding for MHA. “I have seen the condition in which so many of these folks arrive at MHA. They need assistance, and quickly. By collecting and donating personal care items for Good To Go, WMS students are helping to support our participants who are truly in need of a soft landing.”

According to Serenity Green, Assistant Principal of WMS, the response from students for the Good To Go drive was tremendous. “We have over 600 students and all three grade levels, 6th, 7th and 8th, were involved in the Good To Go project,” Green explained. “Donated goods were collected during Advisory Group, a 15-minute check-in period for students and teachers. At the end of each week, the donations were collected by members of our Student Council, who are advised by teachers Courtney Derosia and Kristen VanDerBeken. We kept a running tally and made it something of a competition with the incentive of an extra special cookie at lunch for the grade that collected the most donations. We set a goal to collect 600 items and ended up with over 1,300. Sixth grade collected the most.”

Student groups, as well as sports teams, businesses, service organizations, individuals or families, have the opportunity to make an immediate, meaningful impact in the lives of vulnerable people escaping abuse or neglect through a Good To Go drive. “What the students at WMS did is more than generous,” said Lee. “It’s also a great learning experience for young people about the good feelings and positive impacts that result from giving.”

“At Wilbraham Middle School we have five core value character traits that we teach our students: Respect, Responsibility, Learning, Caring, and Honesty,” Green explained. “The Good To Go drive gave us the opportunity to instill in our students Respect to be part of a community and Caring to want to be part of our community on a larger scale. In school we place such focus on academics, but learning to be a solid citizen with empathy and respect for others is a priority piece of the adolescent puzzle. I was so impressed and proud to be part of the WMS community for the Good To Go project. Our students went above and beyond for others.”

WMS youth you spearheaded the drive and who are pictured with WMS Principal, Tom Mazza: Sean Holden, Joe Hale, John Fitzgerald, Jessica Santos, Mackenzie DaFonseca, Imani Ibraham, Thomas Leckey.

About MHA:
MHA is a nonprofit provider of residential and support services based in Springfield, MA, providing services throughout the Greater Springfield area to people impacted by mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance abuse and homelessness. Our core values are Respect, Integrity and Compassion.
MHA has 400 full- and part-time employees and serves more than 600 participants annually. We operate 25 residential sites, as well as extensive outreach and supported living programs. MHA receives state and federal funding from multiple sources including the MA Department of Mental Health (DMH), MA Department of Developmental Services (DDS), MA Department of Children and Families (DCF), MA Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHDC) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

MHA was founded in 1960 by concerned citizens to provide advocacy for people with mental illness living at Northampton State Hospital. Throughout the deinstitutionalization movement MHA developed a continuum of housing and support options to participants with a wide variety of needs. Our services reflect the belief that everyone deserves quality affordable housing, the opportunity to develop to their fullest potential and the support to pursue their personal vision and meaningfully participate in the life of their community.