It all started with a pack of unopened markers, lying on the Preble High School hallway floor during locker clean-out day in 2009. The markers, and many other stray school supplies, were abandoned as eager students rushed to begin their summer vacations.
Mark Bonetti, a marketing teacher at Preble, didn't want the forgotten markers to go unused. In fact, Bonetti thought all those extra school supplies could go a long way toward helping some of Preble's less fortunate students.
That's how Bonetti established the Hive: a safe, secure place for Preble students and families in need to get some shopping done for free. With several rooms of tall shelves, clothing racks and aisles full of donated items, the Hive is the perfect place to which the Green Bay Packers' community outreach department could contribute.
Each year, the Packers receive many clothing items and products from business partners and sponsors to be used and worn by players and staff. However, sometimes a surplus of tshirts, hats, cleaning products, toothpaste, even razors, often can't be used before a new shipment arrives. In May, representatives from the Packers visited Preble High School, among other schools and facilities in the area, to hand-deliver these items to those in need.
Sandy Roubal, corporate giving coordinator for the Packers, said that when the organization has excess supplies, they seek out areas throughout the state of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan that need these items more than the team does.
"It's very important to us to take an active role in leading by example," said Roubal. "We have a unique responsibility to support the community that has supported us all of these years, and we do our best to give back by donating when we can to people and organizations that need us."
The Packers' community outreach department aims to give to schools, hospitals, clinics, shelters, humane societies and centers that can use these items and distribute them to the people and groups that need them the most.
The Packers donated several boxes of clothing and supplies to many locations like the Hive throughout the community. While the team is unable to give contributions of this size regularly, each time the Packers have unused items, the community outreach department investigates organizations throughout the state of Wisconsin that could use the team's help.
Beginning with that pack of markers in the hallway, Bonetti started collecting other assorted school supplies for the Hive and has expanded to donated tshirts, jeans, sweatshirts and shoes, and even laundry soap, jewelry, cleaning supplies and prom dresses.
"Around 50 students are homeless, which means they don't always have the support necessary to succeed," said Bonetti. "A large percentage of who we help are parents of students who cannot afford to buy these kinds of things."
Bonetti said because of donations like the Packers', the Hive can continue to help hundreds of kids and family members each year. According to Bonetti, after he started the Hive, 28 schools in the area have opened a facility similar to Preble's Hive in the last six years.
Bonetti hopes this mission will spread to other schools in Wisconsin, as well. With student volunteers helping stock the shelves and a social worker on staff to assist those shopping with any needs they may have, Bonetti says the Hive can make an enormous difference in the lives of the students.
The Packers deliver donations of clothing and hygiene products to area high schools and the VA Health Care Center. Photos by Katie Hermsen, Packers.com
With the same round of donations, the Packers also recently stopped at the Milo C. Huempfner VA Health Care Center to give clothing, cleaning and hygiene products.
The clinic says they keep lockers of these items for veterans who may not have the necessary resources to get back on their feet following a surgical procedure.
Michael Gay, voluntary service specialist at the VA Health Care Center, said that having these items at the patients' disposal for no cost is important to the clinic to continue providing outstanding care and improving the lives of the men and women who have served the country.
"As many of our patients transition between living situations, making these donated items available to our veterans in need can really keep them going," said Gay. "We're proud of the care we can provide here, and having items like this for those who need them helps us maintain our high standards of excellent care and service."
The recent donation deliveries are a part of Green Bay Packers Give Back, the Packers' all-encompassing community outreach initiative, which includes the Green Bay Packers Foundation's annual and impact grants, and more than 10,000 autographed items donated for fundraising efforts in the past year.
Other key outreach areas include the more than 900 yearly appearances made by players, coaches and staff, youth football grants and outreach camps, cash and in-kind donations, Make-A-Wish visits, and community events. These efforts, combined with direct cash donations by the Packers to various charity endeavors, resulted in a comprehensive Green Bay Packers Give Back charity impact of nearly $7 million in the past year.
To learn more about how the Green Bay Packers donations, programs and events give back to the community and help places like Preble High School and the VA Health Care Center, please visit www.packers.com/community/.