Mancelona High School has opened a new store that is giving students a safe place to get things they need.
The Iron Vault provides students with the items they might need while also teaching them important life skills, preparing their own meals and business management. Food, clothes and hygiene products are all available for free.
“They want to keep their dignity and we want them to keep their dignity. We don’t ever want them to feel bad about needing something,” say volunteers Kathy Lightbody and Michelle Scott. “If you need it take it. If you want it, leave it. And if we don’t have it we tell them let us know.
“We’re keeping it as normal as possible as a place to shop without any money changing hands.”
The idea is inspired by a similar store at Kalkaska High School.
“I recently moved back to Mancelona High School, which is my hometown…when we got here and I noticed that we did not have this type of resource for the students, I went to some of my best and asked them to come on board and help me get started,” said Mancelona High School teacher Monica Malbouef.
The store setup encourages students to look for help when they are in need by taking away the stigma and giving the students choices.
“When they’re in this environment and they hear another student ask I think it helps them be more comfortable/ And everyone to me deserves the right to be able to come in and make choices for themselves and to make those decisions deciding what they need, what style they might want, what fits their personality.”
With the help of community and student volunteers, the store is open twice a week.
“I know a lot of people have a hard time getting things that they need and I feel like it’d be nice to help them,” said Mancelona junior Amber Schlaff. “Me being part of the store is helping them in a way, even if they don’t really know it.”