If there is a family in need in Schoolcraft, there are two of the most compassionate ladies known to human kind, available to help them locate resources.
Sue Kuiper and Nancy Rafferty along with a host of their best friends and dedicated volunteers, oversee the Eagle’s Nest. They are located in the former school administration building on Clay Street in Schoolcraft, which houses food stuffs, clothes, baby formula, diapers and giving, caring people. Along with their volunteers, they work closely to help sort out what is needed.
What isn’t apparent to the family in need is how all of the Schoolcraft community has come together to help them in a time of distress. It’s a heartwarming story of service to others in a small town with a big heart.
Five programs are housed under the Eagles Nest roof. This came about when Superintendent Rusty Stitt was about to move into his new digs in the high school. Village President Dan DeVries called a meeting in March of 2012, of the existing local non-profits to explore how they were doing with work space requirements. He also wanted to find out if there were redundancies in the delivery of services among the groups.
The invited groups were the Schoolcraft Community Schools, Schoolcraft Friday Pack, Schoolcraft Food Pantry from SCCS, Kindred Spirits, Kids’ Connection, Adam’s Kids, Schoolcraft Ministerial Alliance and the Vicksburg Foundation.
It wasn’t long after that when Kuiper received a phone call from Dr. Stitt, inquiring whether they might all want to be housed in the building he was about to vacate. Could all these disparate groups be able to work together, share space and get rid of the redundancies, he wondered. Because many of these services already targeted school age children, the location next to the elementary schools made the offer that much more enticing, Kuiper said. “He was the catalyst to bring us together.”
The Schoolcraft Food Pantry is a 501c3 under the umbrella of the South County Community Services. The Schoolcraft Friday Pack, INC. is a 501c3 nonprofit which includes three extended programs, Rose’s Clothing Closet, Adam’s Kids and the Homework Club which all work together in Schoolcraft.
“It has turned out to be the perfect location for groups to do community service, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the high school Key Club, the National Honor Society members, local families and church groups to come together to volunteer with the five groups that are now housed under the Eagles Nest moniker,” she explained. This was a bonus they didn’t expect.
“You see the need from a personal and human standpoint in this place, not just a picture on TV or in the newspaper,” she continued. “Your heart is connected to the people and you’re hooked,” Kuiper exclaimed. “There is a large group of women who love this community and are dedicated in making a difference by doing everything we can to help those in need. It’s our committee as a whole.”
The Helping Hands at the Eagles Nest
By Sue Moore
“The generosity of our local stores to the Eagles Nest has been amazing,” exclaimed Sue Kuiper, co-chair of the overarching organization.
For example, J. Rittenmaier Co., on south U.S. 131, started a food drive among their employees three years ago in the fall. We didn’t just get food, there were toys and financial donations matched by the company she exclaimed.
Dollar General on north U.S. 131 has benefitted every program here with food, coats, Halloween costumes and all their outdated items, pulled from the shelves, she continued. They even have a donation box set up by the front door. Our local Harding’s gives us good deals on food and have been there with help from the very beginning of the Food Pantry, Nancy Rafferty co-chair, pointed out. The Lions Club, National Honor Society and Jim Stamper of Heirloom Rose have all been generous with their food and clothing drives.
The Family Valley Church in Portage as part of their Love Week event, came in to sort clothes and move winter clothes from storage to the display racks where people can choose sizes and items they need. Pfizer employees spent a day here last year doing the same thing. Bob Crissman helped to build the racks that hold the clothes, as well as the large shelves for food inventory. The Autism Spectrum Disorder students come from the high school and middle school to help with the Friday backpacks, and get on the job training of sorting, labeling and loading the contents of the bags for children to take home with them over the weekend. This past year they served 63 K-12 students.
“Christmas is a happening which we didn’t anticipate,” Kuiper said. “The outpouring of donations for families in need just warms your heart. Even a ten year old decided to donate a winter coat from his savings,” she pointed out.