Flint, MI— Winter is here. And Flint Schools is doing what they can to offer resources to families in need during these chilly months. 

As part of this effort, Southwestern Classical Academy families received winter care packages, food boxes and a gift bag full of feminine hygiene products at a drive-up giveaway at the high school Dec. 18. 

Over 200 families pre-registered for the event. The winter kits included blankets, hand warmers, chapstick, hats and gloves. 

Mohammed Aboutawila, event organizer and Crim Fitness Foundation community school director at Southwestern, said many Flint families go without items like hats and gloves every season. 

“We know that during this time of the pandemic, economically it’s hard for parents to continue to be sustainable.  At least, this is the little bit that we can do for each family,” Aboutawila said. 

Each care package also contained a $15 Walmart gift card to go towards the purchase of a holiday meal. 

AROSE Foundation, a nonprofit that offers learning opportunities, support, and resources for post-secondary success in youths who live in trauma-prone communities, partnered with Flint Schools to help fund the event. 

Southwestern alumna BriElle Bryson founded AROSE in 2019. 

“When I started the organization, it was founded after my mom who passed away, I thought about what I wanted to do coming out of trauma and coming out of hardship growing up in Flint. I wanted to start with my alma mater, start with the youth here,” Bryson said. 

She also serves as a mentor to five students who attend Southwestern. As a Christmas gift, her mentees received Amazon gift cards and iPads. 

Lonetta Bowers, co-founder of Personal Purses of Purpose, was also at the giveaway passing out purses with feminine hygiene products. Each purse contains a month supply of products. 

Bowers said the organization visits high schools monthly to teach young women how to use pads and tampons as well as other hygiene practices. They give away 200 bags every month, she said. 

Volunteers help hand out winter items, feminine hygiene products, and food to 200 families at Southwestern High School on Friday December 18th, 2020. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

But due to COVID-19, the organization has been unable to hold events. However, Bowers said girls can place “orders” on Facebook and have it delivered to their door.

“Even if you’re not at your school, all you have to do on our page, go reach out, call the number and we’ll deliver it to [you,]” she said. 

Debra Richardson and her two granddaughters, 8-year-old Genoa and 10-year-old Sanaa, attended the giveaway specifically for purses. 

“They lost their mom about three years ago…anything that they get is helpful. All of us struggle,” Richardson said, adding that she is fortunate enough to still work during the pandemic. 

Chris Ochodnicky, principal of Southwestern, said the giveaway is about more than giving back. 

“This is about making sure that the school is more than a school, it’s a community. It’s about everybody coming together and pitching in,” he said. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...