Sunshine Committee making days bright for staff at middle school in Grand Rapids

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The Woot Wagon makes surprise deliveries to staff throughout the day at the Robert J. Elkington Middle School in Grand Rapids.

It’s filled with treats and snacks and beverages.

These little pick-me-ups are just part of the Sunshine Committee’s work to brighten the days for educators and support staff.

“They really lift people up. When days are long, and the kids are kind of crazy, there’s the snack cart, and they provide fun games for us,” Angie Berg said. She’s the assistant principal at the middle school.

It all started after the pandemic really kept people isolated, and made teaching such a lonely and stressful job.

“It was some of the worst years of teaching I’ve ever seen,” Aaron Riehle added, who is part of the committee. “When this idea came up, I thought it was such a great one.”

Meal trains, birthday cards, retirement gifts, and guessing games are all part of the support.

Joe Mustar, a longtime teacher, said, “In all my time, this is one of the best things, because it supports all the staff, not just teachers. And when we’re happy and feeling good, it’s infectious, and the kids can tell.”

Angela Zebro, a teacher and part of the committee, added that they helped her during a personal loss.

“Someone finds out, and puts things in motion. It’s special to be part of something like this,” Zebro told us. “It meant they were thinking of me, in July, when school wasn’t even in session.”

The committee also got some major upgrades done to the staff lounge.

Carol Copp, one of the founding members of the committee, said, “We’ve had great feedback. And education can be really tough,” she said. “Being able to provide this, to be able to do things to make people happy, makes me feel like I’ve done something positive.”

The committee would like to expand and include students next semester. They’ve been asking for help from businesses around town.

Riehle added, “Sometimes in education, you don’t always feel like you’re valued. But going out in the community and asking for donations, you definitely feel more validated and appreciated.”

To donate to the committee, see below. Also, the silent auction going on now is just for the staff, to make sure they end up winning all the prizes.