On a recent Saturday morning, Pearson Middle School was abuzz with activity. The school’s principal and assistant principal flipped burgers and hotdogs on the grill for their school visitors.
About 100 families lined up outside the school. Some families arrived hours before the school doors opened and welcomed families to shop inside Pearson’s Fresh Market. The Saturday also marked the opening day for the Pilot’s Hangar, where families could shop for new and used clothes, shoes, bedding, children’s toys, books, and more at no cost.
Families filled grocery bags with about 6,000 pounds of food. There was fresh corn, sweet potatoes, baking potatoes, carrots, frozen meats, milk, bread, diapers, and so much more.
“Students come to school nowadays with adult worries. At Pearson, our mission is ‘To Connect, To Empower, To Succeed.’ Through the Fresh Market and Pilot’s Hangar, we can relieve some of those worries, CONNECT with our community, provide our families with skills and necessities, and EMPOWER our students with the strategies to focus on SUCCEEDing during their years at Pearson,” explained Pearson Principal Dean Yoder.
The Fresh Market originally opened a few years ago at Fair Oaks Elementary School when Principal Yoder led the school. When Principal Yoder opened Pearson—Cobb’s newest middle school—last year, the former Fair Oaks principal had the opportunity to expand the reach of the Fresh Market so more Cobb families could access the necessities they need. The Pilot’s Hangar, which compliments the Pearson grocery store, also originated at Fair Oaks as the Eagle's Closet.
The Fair Oaks current principal, Cathie Seibert, was inside Pearson on the recent Saturday helping families check out after they shopped inside the Fresh Market. Principal Seibert helped weigh all the food so the school staff knew how much food they needed to restock the market for the next shopping day.
The Fresh Market is stocked with donations from MUST Ministries and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The Pilot’s Hangar is filled with donations from community groups and community members. GracePointe Church helps organize the donations, and members were on hand to welcome families. For families who did not have transportation to Pearson or a way to get their groceries back home, GracePointe Church provided a shuttle.
In addition to the community volunteers, including a retired Cobb educator, current Pearson teachers were at the school, extending their support for students beyond school hours. Pearson students also volunteered to give back to their school community.
“It brings the community together,” applauded Pearson teacher Jennifer Duerkoop. “It is amazing!”
Pearson media specialist Tiffany Spriggs echoed her colleague's praise of the school’s resources for the community. She enjoys seeing her students smiling when they come in with their parents, greet their teachers, and shop for what they need.
Pearson tries to make the stores available to families every two weeks from 8:00-10:00 a.m. during the summer and 9:00-11:00 a.m. during the school year. Because the days the shops are open depend on deliveries from MUST Ministries and Atlanta Community Food Bank, school families are notified in advance of the specific days when the Fresh Market and Pilot’s Hangar will be open.
For those in the community interested in donating to the Pilot’s Hangar at Pearson, donations can be dropped off at Pearson anytime during school hours. If the donation is too large to bring to the school, Principal Yoder said they would do their best to come and pick up the donation.