Learning About Seneca Valley’s "No Cost to Shop" with Ms. Michelle Eppinger
Michelle Eppinger, NCTS Coordinator and Job Coach-Paraprofessional
Michelle Eppinger has just started her seventeenth year with Seneca Valley. She has worked as a paraprofessional and for the past five years has been a job coach in the senior high school. She also runs the afterschool Social Skills Tutoring Group (SST) which helps students build upon teamwork, peer interaction and helps to facilitate friendship and fun!
IN THIS EPISODE, WE WILL REVIEW
File Name: Voices E69 Michelle Eppinger_Version 2.mp3
File Length: 00:14:03
FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)
00:00:02:26 - 00:00:19:08
Introduction: Welcome to Voices, a national award winning podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District. This is Jeff Krakoff. Today, I'm with Michelle Eppinger, who is a job coach and paraprofessional at the high school. Thanks for being with us.
00:00:20:06 - 00:00:20:22
Michelle Eppinger: Sure.
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Jeff Krakoff: So I want to talk to you about the No Cost to Shop. I'm not even sure that everybody in this school knows this exists. But what is the No Cost to Shop?
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Michelle Eppinger: The No Cost to Shop is a free store that's available to all students in grades seven through 12.
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Jeff Krakoff: Okay.
00:00:41:12 - 00:01:15:16
Michelle Eppinger: We have a variety of clothing. We have jeans to hoodies to socks and shoes and hygiene items. We also have dress clothes for students that need something for an interview. We have prom dresses and homecoming dresses. At particular seasons, we have suits and things like that for guys as well. Also, we were able last year to help some students get some outfits for their senior boards.
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Jeff Krakoff: Okay, so you got all kinds of clothes?
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Michelle Eppinger: We do. We have a dressing room where the students can try things on to make sure that they're the proper size.
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Jeff Krakoff: Okay. And you mentioned hygiene items. Are we talking shampoo, deodorant, soap, or what kinds of things are there?
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Michelle Eppinger: Yes, there's all kinds of things. Any hygiene item, you know, that you might need deodorant or anything like that. Toothpaste, brushes, combs, nail polish, things like that.
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Jeff Krakoff: All right. Now, where is the shop located?
00:01:55:24 - 00:02:02:19
Michelle Eppinger: The shop is in the senior high school. It is on the third floor in room 333.
00:02:03:06 - 00:02:20:05
Jeff Krakoff: Okay. I've seen the shop, and it looks like a store- like if you were in a retail space. But if you could just describe for the listeners, when you walk in, what's it look like? You know, the racks, displays. Can you just explain?
00:02:20:07 - 00:03:27:07
Michelle Eppinger: Yes, we have several clothing racks. They're divided into sizes. You know, pants and tops, men's and ladies. And then we have a double rack for just winter coats. Okay. And then moving through, we have a lot of shelves and things where the hygiene items are displayed by category. And there's drawers for, like the socks and underwear and things like that. And then we have a complete wall unit where there's all different sizes of men's and ladies clothing, you know; sweats and leggings and jeans and hoodies and any piece of clothing that you would want. We also have a section where we have towels and slippers and things like that, as well as bookbags and school supplies.
00:03:29:05 - 00:03:38:03
Jeff Krakoff: What a great idea. So if you could tell us, how long has this store been there in the high school and how did it all come about?
00:03:39:10 - 00:04:32:27
Michelle Eppinger: We've been open for a little over a year now, and it started with one student. You know, I had the idea. I saw a student that I thought maybe could use some help. And he was about the same size as my husband. So my husband was cleaning out some things, and I asked the student if he'd be interested, and he said, sure. So one thing led to the other. I brought the items in and that student and that idea led to, "hey, well, if there's one student that needs it, there are probably more." So then we started looking for a place to set up shop.
00:04:33:25 - 00:04:45:00
Jeff Krakoff: And this isn't this a little room where here's five hoodies, It's 60 shirts. There is alot of stuff in there. I wanted to point that out.
00:04:45:28 - 00:04:57:26
Michelle Eppinger: Yeah, it's a pretty big size. Yeah, it's about half of the size of a large classroom. There were thousands and thousands of items in here, and we get new items weekly.
00:04:59:01 - 00:05:08:12
Jeff Krakoff: That's a great question. So your items, they're donated gently, used in good shape type items or some of the items brand new out of the store?
00:05:09:08 - 00:05:38:02
Michelle Eppinger: Yes. We get a lot of items that are brand new, and we get a lot of other items that have to be very gently used. We go through every piece of clothing that comes in. We check to make sure the buttons are there. The zippers work, no holes, no stains and things like that. And we go through and we launder everything before it gets sized and put on the shelves.
00:05:38:25 - 00:05:57:01
Jeff Krakoff: So this is all merchandise that anybody would feel really good wearing using kinds of things. Can you explain to us, is it open to every student? Any student within the district, seventh through 12th grade, as you mentioned, correct?
00:05:57:28 - 00:06:28:18
Michelle Eppinger: Yes, ny student. And if you are going out on a Friday night and you need something new to wear and you can't get to the store, come into the store. You know, pick something. If you were in gym class and you forgot your deodorant or you blow out your tennis shoe. Come up to the store. You don't have to go through the day being embarrassed or feeling miserable all day; come up to the store and shop. We've got some great things here.
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Jeff Krakoff: Now, just from business model standpoint, everything is free to students?
00:06:34:09 - 00:06:34:24
Michelle Eppinger: Yes.
00:06:42:25 - 00:06:50:22
Jeff Krakoff: How were you able to get this off the ground where the money come from? Just to have the furnishings and equipment needed?
00:06:51:27 - 00:07:43:20
Michelle Eppinger: Well, we went through Amanda Malin, she was our assistant principal at the time, and she went to administration. They talked to the Seneca Valley Foundation and the Seneca Valley Foundation started us off with a grant so that we could buy the racks and the different things that we needed like laundry, soap and the different things to make it look like a real store. And then we had a lot of help from volunteers - you know, building things and painting things and putting things together. And just from a keeping in an inventory standpoint, again, there may be donations and grants.
00:07:45:08 - 00:07:54:01
Jeff Krakoff: How do you physically collect the clothing? If I wanted to donate some gently used clothing or new clothing, what's the process for that?
00:07:54:23 - 00:09:06:13
Michelle Eppinger: Well, the process is first of all, we can take financial donations. You can make a check out to the Seneca Valley Foundation, with “No Cost to Shop” on the memo line and send that here to the Seneca Valley School District for the clothing donations. We have donation bins set up in each of the locations on the secondary campus in Ryan Gloyer Middle School and the intermediate high school and in the senior high school. Then when you come in the doors you can donate items between 8:30 am and about 2 pm. You don't want to hit the bus traffic, so it's better to get here after the buses or before the buses get here. And from there we have students that pick up the items. We bring them up to the store. We go through, like I said, item by item and decide what we're going to do, and that begins the process.
00:09:06:25 - 00:09:22:25
Jeff Krakoff: Okay. Just to clarify, if somebody wants to write a check, you said the Seneca Valley Foundation, No Cost to Shop or you just write it out also to the foundation with a memo. Note how specific yes you can be.
00:09:22:27 - 00:09:32:08
Michelle Eppinger: You can put No cost of shop in the memo out on the bottom of the check. This way it goes to us.
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Jeff Krakoff: Got it. And what about online on the website? Can I donate that way?
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Michelle Eppinger: I'm not aware of that.
00:09:41:23 - 00:09:42:08
Jeff Krakoff: Okay.
00:09:43:02 - 00:09:52:13
Michelle Eppinger: Okay, now, maybe in the future we can do that. But as of right now, I am not aware that we're doing anything like that.
00:09:52:19 - 00:10:01:27
Jeff Krakoff: Okay. And then anyone who wants to donate actual hygiene items, clothing items, just drop them off at one of the locations on the secondary campus?
00:10:01:29 - 00:10:02:14
Michelle Eppinger: Yes.
00:10:02:24 - 00:10:16:03
Jeff Krakoff: So like any other store, you need people to be there to help people. Who works in the store and what kinds of things are they working on as part of this?
00:10:17:00 - 00:11:03:00
Michelle Eppinger: Well, the store is open from 7:25 am until 8 am every morning. You don't need an appointment or anything. But during the day, the job coaches work with students from our vocational readiness classes. We have about 25 students throughout the week that come in different periods, and they take care of all of those jobs, from collecting the clothing to sorting, to laundry, to sizing, to shelving. You know, everything that comes in here is inventoried. And this way we can keep track of what's going on.
00:11:03:18 - 00:11:13:13
Jeff Krakoff: Now, if the timeframe of when the store opens doesn't fit, you did mention is there a possibility to make an appointment to come in and check things out?
00:11:14:21 - 00:11:47:23
Michelle Eppinger: Well, we are like I said, we are open from 7:25 am in the morning until 8 am. Without an appointment, there's somebody here every day. But then through the day, there are QR codes in all the restrooms and all the halls on the announcements every morning where a student can just click on that QR code and they can sign up for a time to do a private shopping.
00:11:48:03 - 00:11:55:25
Jeff Krakoff: That's awesome. So is there anything else you'd like to tell everybody about the no cost to shop?
00:11:57:10 - 00:13:34:13
Michelle Eppinger: Well, there is, yes. We have a couple things. We just started on Instagram so everyone can follow us on Instagram. It's at SV_nocosttoshop. So like I said, you can check us out. We've got things going up and running on there. You want to keep checking that because like I said, new items plus there's some new things we're going to do like a winter wish program. And that's coming as well and what we did over the holidays. We set up a wrapping station so students were able to come in and find presents for their siblings or their parents and things like that and wrap them right here in the store. We even have sometimes people donate gift items that they, you know, they can't use the brand new candles and different things. And we have jewelry here that they can have. You know, when one student gave a bracelet or picked out a bracelet for his mom for Christmas, that that was kind of cool. So, you know, keep checking on that on the Instagram account to see what's coming out.
00:13:35:05 - 00:13:55:19
Jeff Krakoff: All right. Well, that is a great program. Not only are you helping students by providing all these great items, but you're also providing a great experience for those that are involved in working in the store. Kudos to you and the rest of the group. This was Michele Eppinger, again, a job coach and paraprofessional at the high school. Thanks so much for being with us today.
00:13:56:14 - 00:13:57:11
Michelle Eppinger: Thank you.
00:13:57:26 - 00:13:58:20
Jeff Krakoff: Have a great day.
00:13:59:06 - 00:14:00:11
Michelle Eppinger: You do the same.