Airport helps stock HEART Locker

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As summer segues into fall, students’ backpacks have been filled with new school supplies, new school clothes and shoes have been bought, and families around the Flathead have filled their pantries with food and snacks to pack into school lunches.

But for some at-risk teens, back-to-school shopping isn’t an option and they struggle to meet even their most basic needs.

The Kalispell Homeless Education and Resources Together Program — HEART — has come to the rescue for hundreds of students who don’t have the financial ability to prepare for a new school year. The nonprofit held a Stock the Locker school supply drive from July 28 to Aug. 13 to help fill the HEART Locker.

During the drive, Glacier Park International Airport partnered with the Kalispell HEART Program to facilitate hundreds of donations for Flathead Valley at-risk and homeless youth in Kalispell and Evergreen. Two large banks of school lockers donated by Glacier Park International Airport were placed as collection points at Kmart and the Kalispell Center Mall. Two weekend drives were also hosted at Walmart and community members were able to help stock the locker by donating needed supplies.

As a result, eight large totes of school supplies, 45 backpacks, six boxes of toiletries and another three totes full of clothing were delivered to the HEART Locker the week prior to the start of the school year.

The HEART Locker is a free store that provides area students with everything from pencils and backpacks to socks and toothpaste.

“The future of this community depends on our youth, so it’s important that they are equipped with the tools they need for success,” said Rob Ratkowski, Glacier Park International Airport director. “Here at the airport, we are proud to be a part of that effort and we hope that the Stock the Locker supply drive continues to grow in the coming years.”

Operated by the HEART Program and Kalispell Public Schools, the HEART Locker is a facility in Kalispell that acts as a free store for students in need. The facility receives donations from the community that include clothing, shoes, hygiene products and school supplies for the students to receive at no cost so they can focus fully on their academics. HEART Locker is not open to the public, but donations are always appreciated.

The HEART Locker is located at 514 E. Washington St., behind Taco Bell. Bring donations of clothing from kindergarten up through high school-sized, school and art supplies, snacks, young adult books and personal hygiene items Mondays and Tuesdays from 8 to 10 a.m. and Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. For more details, call Nichole Heyer, Homeless Education liaison, at 751-3630 or email heyern@sd5.k12.mt.us.

Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

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