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Photo submitted A look at the thrifty panther: Stylish and sustainable service project in Gowanda helps students gain confidence

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GOWANDA – The Thrifty Panther is a thrift store designed for teenagers with an ingenious concept at its core. Its inventory consists mostly of new used or donated clothing of all sizes and for all seasons and the store is intended to make middle and high school students in Gowanda feel safe and confident. It also encourages students and donors to consider making more use of asset reuse in thoughtful, responsible, and environmentally responsible ways.

Housed in a cheery, bright new space in a newly renovated first-floor high school classroom and elegantly furnished with only repurposed surplus office furniture, the setting is comparable to an upscale boutique — but there’s a catch. Everything is free. Winter coats, suits, blouses, T-shirts, accessories, hygiene products, school supplies, shoes, etc.

The environmentally conscious project is run by high school social worker Robyn Dhand and teacher Holly Smith. The initiative turned out to be a real collaboration with some students helping with inventory, packing, display and supervising the store when it is open for a few periods per school day. There are plans to involve other students and classes in managing the flow of donations and trying to accommodate requests for specific items or sizes.

“The idea for The Thrifty Panther was born when my mental health student approached Principal Moraites with ideas for a school service project,” said Smith.

Previously housed in a space in the basement, the clothes closet – as it was once called when it was created a few years ago – was a more discreet resource. Its new, more prominent location is a benefit of the recent completion of the High School Capital Project and the result is not just a fresh start for the Thrifty Panther, but a true reinvention and reframing of the concept.

Now that it’s more visible, small groups of health students have been picking up inventory and experimenting with what it takes to run a store from time to time. “Connected Panther” days when they focus on school service projects.

“Participation in school/community service projects has been shown to help people increase their self-esteem, gain more empathy, develop long-term generosity, and even learn new skills needed for life. labor market such as leadership, communication skills, reliability, time management, and decision making, said Smith.

Not only do the students help sift through and organize the bags and piles of donated clothing, but they also scour each rack and shelf laden with donations to decide what should stay and what should go. Drawing on their current fashion expertise and inimitable taste, health students are instrumental in choosing the items that best suit their classmates while weeding out items that they think do not suit them. will not help to feel confident. The goal is to make the Thrifty Panther accessible for two periods per school day in the near future.

“My students have fun, but also generate ideas that can help students in need,” said Smith.

Word of the Thrifty Panther spread quickly, with Director of Buildings and Grounds Rich Smith and his team and many others on campus helping facilitate the new space. The teachers also donated many clothes.

Community supporters are also impressed with the effort. The Tangible Kingdom Student Outreach Program, which is under retired teacher Ms. Kyle Steever and Mayor David Smith (also a GCS Trustee) donated $1,000 to help purchase the items needed that are not in stock or readily available to students. in need.

In addition to being a confidence-building resource, The Thrifty Panther serves as a hands-on learning tool and helps students make authentic connections with each other, with their community, and what it takes to collaborate for a greater great good. And they do it in style.

The store is a work in progress and has come a long way in its short life. Students “bought” in the basement for surplus items to use to transform the new space into a bright and positive experience. They have also been ingenious in reusing many dusty, long-unused items and giving them new life by displaying them for display, storage and hanging.

The popularity of the Thrifty Panther has led to some complications, including donation management. Currently, donations are being accepted as needed to ensure the space is not overcrowded. Those interested in donating are encouraged to contact Ms. Dhand or Ms. Smith by email at [email protected] or [email protected] And at Gowanda Elementary, students also rely on her clothes closet for items needed by students in kindergarten through fourth grade and parents/guardians and potential donors are encouraged to call (716) 532-3328.

“There is a bright future here for The Thrifty Panther.” said Smith. “I can’t wait to see him continue to reach his full potential.”

The Thrifty Panther is accepting donations of recently and lightly used prom dresses, shoes and jewelry through May 6 before the annual May 14 dance. Donations can be dropped off at the GHS office.

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