KERSEY — A Kersey organization dedicated to making children and families complete will reopen soon for the upcoming school year.
The Guardian Angel Center on Main Street is known for providing brand-new items for families and youth in need in a judgement-free place.
Cly Hornung and Marion Johnson said GAC closed May 21 and will reopen July 30, offering items like clothing, shoes and backpacks for youth in need each Tuesday until school starts.
Around 33 center volunteers help organize, sort and prepare for families and children to return. Many GAS volunteers are retired educators still wanting to contribute to area students, Hornung said.
GAC was started in 1995 in a different location, with the current building constructed in 2005. It serves eight counties, with most clients from Elk County, Hornung said. Once a week, clients line up hours ahead of time, eager to go in and look around.
Items the GAC is unable to use go to Goodwill, Hornung said, or are donated to places like an Erie homeless shelter, CAPSEA (Citizens Against Physical, Sexual and Emotional Abuse) and the St. Marys Resale Shop.
Walmart donates many items to the center, the women said. Volunteers help distribute nearly 300 backpacks to school-age children, and children leave with $100-$150 worth of new clothing.
Through grants and donations from community organizations, businesses and churches, two GAC volunteers are able to shop and pick out new shoes for the children, the women said, which are kept in a “shoe room” for youth to try on.
The center also offers bins of socks and underwear, two cupboards full of diaper bags and baby supplies and hygiene boxes for families. A certain item is also highlighted each month, such as a new set of sheets given away in April.
Every child is guaranteed a new coat, hat, gloves and scarf for winter, the women said.
The surrounding community very much comes together to help the center serve. It once received a donation of 150 handmade pillowcases. Local churches provide pajamas or other items, and a senior center makes hats. A local woman also cooks GAC volunteers a lunch each day it’s open.
“Once people learn about us, and what we do, they want to help,” Johnson said.
Financially-qualified clients can visit GAC five times per year, and once per month, a shopping experience that children enjoy, since they are able to pick out the clothes they like. One of GAC’s goals is to make sure the children never feel judged, helping them be accepted by their peers.
GAC volunteers share great fellowship with one another, too, Hornung said, adding they see each other as family.
By the year 2020, the GAC will be implementing a 900-foot expansion, which will provide a staircase and upstairs area to store items that are currently housed in a storage shed, the women said.
Volunteer Sandy Jaconski said she often sees children get so excited, and in disbelief, that everything they pick out is free.
Over the years, Hornung and Johnson have heard some sad stories, some of which assure them GAC is making a difference.
“A mother sent us a picture of her three kids on the first day of school, and said, ‘This is what my kids look like today, thanks to you,’” Johnson said.
Children have also been heard telling friends “We went shopping at Guardian Angel.”
Johnson recalls being approached by a woman who said, “I couldn’t raise my kids without you guys.”
The center is currently in need of gently-used children’s books and children’s clothing, particularly clothing for active young boys.
For more information, visit GAC on Facebook or call 814-885-6192.