Store assisting students


Various supplies are available to students in need at the Pacer Free Store at Hayes High School thanks to a partnership between an intervention specialist and Common Ground Free Store.

Rebecca Saunders, an intervention specialist at Hayes, said last week the Pacer Free Store is now open and ready to assist students at the school in need of items like clothing and household goods.

Saunders said the store at Hayes came about because of her time spent volunteering at Common Ground last year.

“Shortly after Common Ground reopened after the Covid shut down, I started volunteering one evening a week,” Saunders said. “In my day job, I am a teacher for students with multiple disabilities at Hayes High School. Often times, our classroom could use some supplies like extra clothes, items for the kitchen, crafting supplies, exercise equipment, and simple household goods. There were also some items that got donated that Common Ground just didn’t have space to put on shelves. The managers would ask if I could use such items at school, the answer was usually yes.”

Saunders added many students in her classroom have medical issues that make it difficult for them to get into the community for job training and vocational skills, and she’s been trying to come up with a way to teach those skills at the school.

“At the same time, I started taking small tasks that Common Ground needed to complete to school where we would work on them and then return completed products,” Saunders said. “Some examples of these jobs are processing large packages of new socks and underwear into individual pairs, counting and packaging diapers, and wrapping individual rolls of toilet paper. After chatting with managers, Sharon Griner (executive director of Common Ground), Principal Ric Stranges, and Superintendent Kegley about a potential Hayes High School-Common Ground partnership, we started building a free store at Hayes High School that would be open to all students.”

The store is located in an office by the student entrance on the west side of the school and features an inventory of hygiene products, clothing, and other supplies that students may need.

“We have clothing, shoes, socks, underwear, backpacks, school supplies, health and beauty supplies (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, period supplies, lotion and hair care products), and a small gift section,” Saunders said. “We also have a grocery section, thanks to a partnership with the National Honor Society, where our students assemble meal bags with printed recipes like many of the meal delivery services people use today. All of these items are completely free of charge.”

Saunders said any student is able to access the store, which is partially staffed by students from her class.

“I am hoping that we are able to create a greater sense of community where all students have what they need to have a positive school experience,” Saunders said. “Our students with special needs get to have a sense of accomplishment as they learn the vocational skills needed to run a store.”

Saunders said she appreciates the support and partnership from Common Ground.

“Common Ground has been an amazing partner,” she said. “They provide us with so many opportunities for vocational skills practice. They are also very conscious about products that might be needed or wanted in the high school setting. Many of the staff members at Common Ground have high school-aged children, so they know the population well. If there is a known need, I am able to contact Common Ground and they will find the item in the store or start keeping an eye out for the needed items.”

More information about Common Ground can be found at

Intervention Specialist Rebecca Saunders stocks items in the Pacer Free Store at Hayes High School last week. Specialist Rebecca Saunders stocks items in the Pacer Free Store at Hayes High School last week. Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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